April 7, 2011

In Tendulkar country

Wright Thompson
An American writer new to cricket experiences the first couple of weeks of the World Cup, navigating the madness of a billion fans and chasing the soul of the game
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DHAKA, Bangladesh - The guy walking across the parking lot is famous. That's easy to tell from the reactions. Crowds part for him. Security guards mirror his every step. Other cricketers who made this same trip to the locker room tiptoed around the puddles. He strides over them, head up, confident. I am following an Indian cricket superstar, but I don't know who he is. That's the kind of trip this is going to be - one of constant confusion and mystery.

He's not a big man, but he's got a big aura. Fans climb the stadium wall, cheek to cheek, pressed against openings to catch a glimpse. The player looks up at the apartment buildings crowding the other side of the street, like a zoo animal in reverse, all the residents leaning over to get a peek. He waves his bat at the kids on the wall. The kids scream with joy. I grab a photographer and point.

Who is that?

He looks at me like I've got three heads.

Sachin Tendulkar.

Oh.

CHAPTER ONE: Dhaka
Sachin is both the riddle and the answer. That's what I'm told. You must understand India to understand Sachin, but you must understand Sachin to understand India. They created each other. They are the same.

This, obviously, makes no sense to me.

How could it? Just a few hours ago, on a mid-February morning, I landed in Dhaka. I came with a copy of Cricket for Dummies. The 2011 Cricket World Cup starts tomorrow, India at Bangladesh, and I know nothing about the sport, not even about the tremendous pressure on the Indian National Cricket team to win its second World Cup after a three-decade drought. How tremendous? The Hindustan Times' logo for their cup coverage says, every day, in enormous letters: A Billion Dreams… 28 years of yearning.

I don't understand that the sport itself is at a crossroads, in crisis even.

I don't realise that Sachin Tendulkar is likely playing in his final World Cup, still searching for his first title. Tendulkar is probably the most famous man in India. He's so famous that people who worked for him are famous: a Bollywood movie character is based on his first agent, Mark Mascarenhas, who died in a car wreck. Billboards with Sachin's photo blanket India's cities; every other commercial on television features his face. He's wildly rich. He is the greatest cricketer in the world. One of the greatest ever.

I know none of that.

At the moment, I'm too busy trying to figure out the definition of a wicket.

Is it the manicured area in the center of the field?

Is it the stumps on either end of that manicured area?

Is it when a player gets out?

(Turns out, according to my book, it's all three.)

Cricket, like India, had long intrigued me from afar. It seemed so mysterious: a game with strange rules, and stranger vocabulary, one that can last for days, captivating billions but meriting only an inch or two in the papers at home. Only madness made it to my radar. Fan hangs himself after India loss. … Pakistan's coach allegedly murdered after upset defeat. There seemed something pure and savage that was missing from the glossy sports I follow at home.

My first day in Bangladesh, I'm sitting in the press box considering the journey ahead. Sambit Bal, the editor of ESPNcricinfo, sits next to me. If you are looking for someone with the opposite of my cricket knowledge, he's it. Back home, an Alabama fan had killed the trees at Toomer's Corner, and I was trying to explain the significance to him. This was big news to me. I'm a Southern boy, and I tend to believe that SEC football is the most important thing in the world. Only, Sambit has never heard of Auburn, or Alabama, doesn't know that they play college football, or that they are rivals. I fumble around. This is perhaps America's most intense rivalry. A fan just poisoned two 130-year-old oak trees. It's serious. I need an analogy.

My first thought: It's like India-Pakistan in cricket.

Except, you know, for the four wars since 1947 and the constant threat of nuclear holocaust. Other than that, Auburn-Alabama is just like India-Pakistan.

This is my first day in the world of cricket.

I have a lot to learn.

No magic moment today
Game day outside the stadium is wild. People fill the streets for blocks. A drum beats somewhere in the distance. Vuvuzelas are the horn section. The roar of the mob gets louder and louder until it's just white noise. Chaos is the new normal. Loud is the new quiet. Dhaka has ceased to function.

The stadium fills up. India is the favourite to win the tournament. The team's line-up is stocked with sluggers. The first two swagger to the center of the field: Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. They are really here, waddling in pads, giving fist bumps. The crowd is bubbling now after months of anticipation, after years of hunger for their country to be seen as more than its disasters.

The first ball brings a crescendo.

I'm trying to follow the game. I know Tendulkar is a star, so I focus on him. I cannot tell what makes him special. Then, before I know it, he's out, finished for the day. I don't really understand why. The fans rise to their feet as he walks off. He's scored 28 runs. It all happened so fast. I feel cheated.

Sehwag stays in. He crushes ball after ball. It's like watching Mark McGwire take batting practice. The dude has Popeye arms, and he's pounding the thing all over the yard. Sehwag is called the "Butcher of Najafgarh". He puts on a show. The cricket-mad Bangladeshi crowd oohs and ahs, just happy to be seeing the game in person.

Once, when an American company executive contacted his agent and wanted to understand what place Sachin held in Indian culture, the agent didn't quote the number of Test wins, or international centuries. He said, simply, that Sachin endorsed Audemars Piguet watches, and that the company made a model just for him. The executive was sold

Sehwag finally gets out with 175, an incredible total. After that, the game slows. India wins, and it's a little boring, frankly. Maybe it's because I don't know the rules, or because the scene in the street was exponentially more dramatic than the one in the stands, but the game itself seems anticlimactic. I've flown halfway around the planet, and I'm after more than an intellectual understanding of why cricket matters. There's a mystic place beyond the assignment. When the books are closed and the conversations about culture and history are over, I want to sit in a stadium and have the game explain itself to me.

That didn't happen tonight.

Innocence lost?
One thing did happen - a press-box conversation during the game that will eat at me for the next week. I'm sitting with Sambit, and a guy comes up to chat. He's a former Indian cricket player turned broadcaster, Sanjay Manjrekar, and he's been captivated by Bangladesh's reaction to this World Cup opening in its capital. This pure love for cricket transports him to his past.

"There is a certain amount of innocence here," he tells us, "which I think India has lost."

The entire exchange lasts a minute or two. His lament, and the place from which it comes, are beyond me.

I don't yet know enough to recognise a eulogy when I hear one.

CHAPTER TWO: Ahmedabad, India
I'm taking a retired physics professor named Kumar Bhatt and his brother Bankim to the next game. Kumar taught at Ole Miss, Kentucky and Texas. Most of that time was spent in Oxford, Miss., where I live. Before he moved back to India, his house was a few blocks from mine. If anybody would understand where I am coming from, it's a former neighbour.

We find our seats, and the game begins: a slow affair, plodding, with the powerful Australians still finding their legs and the overmatched Zimbabweans playing defensively, taking no chances.

The stadium is mostly empty. It will remain that way. I think of Manjrekar's press-box lament.

Kumar tells me about the history of the game. When he was growing up, championship cricket meant a Test match. White uniforms. Breaks for high tea. Unlimited overs. (An over is a set of six balls, sort of like an at-bat.) Games lasted for days. Sometimes nobody won. Cricket was designed to be played, not watched. "After five days," Kumar says, "it was frustrating for the spectators."

Modern attention spans began shrinking cricket. First came the World Cup format, which could be completed in a day, and is now 50 overs. More recently, the 20-over game has become popular with paying customers, an event stripped of nuance, played in the same amount of time as a baseball game.

We sit in the lower bleachers, the entire circle of green in front of us. An Australian player muscles a ball toward the boundary. A ball that hits or bounces over the boundary at the edge of the field is four runs; a ball that crosses it on the fly is six. Some Aussie hits are seen as gauche. Kumar clucks disapprovingly. I ask why. Old-school cricket fans don't like it when players cross the bat, which for baseball fans would be like if a right-handed hitter got an outside fastball and, instead of going the opposite way, turned and pulled it. It's vulgar. The ball should be hit in the direction from which it's pitched.

"You are to play gracefully," Kumar says, "and give respect to the ball."

Have you ever heard that something "isn't cricket"? That's where the phrase comes from. To cross the bat isn't cricket. Sehwag crosses the bat. Constantly. He wants bombs. Fours and sixes. Sehwag revels in his vulgarity. Tendulkar, although a big hitter, plays with an old school respect. Kumar loves Sachin.

"Grace has a place," Kumar says.

"The players have gotten soft," Bankim grumbles.

"Australia relies mostly on fast bowlers to win," Kumar says. "We don't consider it fair."

The sparse crowd gets behind Zimbabwe, which steals a couple of wickets. Fans whistle at the departing Australians, waving goodbye. Australia completes 50 overs with 262 runs.

"Not a good score," Bankim says.

Zimbabwe comes to bat. It's already been a long day. Kumar is 78 years old. "Would you like to leave?" he asks.

Bankim ignores him for a bit but gets the message. We pack our stuff. I check the scoreboard and work out some numbers. Zimbabwe is scoring 5.25 runs an over. It needs 5.26. It has a chance at the upset. I head up to the press box. I need to keep watching cricket, in person and on television, if I want a revelation. There will be a moment when it all becomes clear.

Maybe that will happen tonight.

That is one of many miscalculations I will be guilty of today. The Zimbabwe team slows down, needing 26 overs to reach 100 runs, but in the well-lit press box I hold out hope, doing the math on my phone, figuring out the run rate. At least I'm taking steps, learning the nuances of the game. I divide the runs by the overs. Repeat. Then the wire-service reporters stop watching the game and begin typing. Hope is gone. There are many ways to know when a game is over, but the most reliable is to find the correspondent from the Associated Press. The AP guy is sitting next to me. He taps furiously.

There will be no magic.

CHAPTER THREE: New Delhi
My New Delhi cab driver's name is Deepchand Yadav. He loves cricket. Once, the captain of India's 1983 World Cup champion team, Kapil Dev, rode in his car. Can you imagine?! Kapil Dev, in my cab! He hopes India will win this year's tournament. Everyone is very nervous. A billion dreams. Twenty-eight years of yearning. The team must win, for the billion, for its star.

"I'm fans with Sachin," he says. "Sachin is mentally cool."

Deepchand moved to Delhi from his village 18 years ago. Yadav is a caste name. His caste members are traditionally cow herders, and as India has changed, they've spread through the nation, taking any job they can get, sending money back to the villages. He is part of post-caste India. Anything is possible through hard work. He grinds, trying to hang on to the first rung of a lower-middle-class life. He's a smart guy, with a big smile and a luxurious mustache.

Six years ago, worried about the lives of his wife and three children, he brought them to Delhi with him. "My family actually likes village," he says, "but I like Delhi because business purposes is good." Six years ago, he played cricket - captain of his village team. But since his family came to the city, there's no time. He's never played cricket with his son.

His son is 10 years old. The boy plays cricket with friends in the street, wherever they can find a little space, five or six sharing a bat. The wheels turn. I ask Deepchand if I could play with them tomorrow. I've watched cricket, but I've never held a bat or struck a ball. Books take you only so far. The best way to know a sport is to play it with children.

"What's your son's name?" I ask.

"Sachin," he says.

"If Cricket Is a Religion, Sachin Is God"
Deepchand chose this name carefully. A name is very important in Hindu culture. The right one, it is believed, can lead a child to immortality. A name is a compass. It points a person in a specific direction.

Of his three children, Deepchand got to name two of them. The girl he called Sonia, after Sonia Gandhi, a politician, "an honest and powerful woman." He wants his girl to be like her. He wants his son to be like Sachin: strong, sincere, poised. Sachin represents so many things for Indians who aspire to a better future while not losing their past in the exchange. The name literally means "pure".

"He never behaves badly," says Rahul Bhattacharya, once a popular young writer on cricket, now a novelist, "which Indians find very appealing. He's not had scandals with women or drugs. He's the idol for our children."

Before Sachin, typical Indian cricketers took few risks. For the first hour, shots were deflected, frustrating the bowler, tiring him out, forcing him into mistakes, a perfect sporting ethos in a country known for vein-popping passive-aggressiveness. Sachin changed that. His style was new. He swung a thick bat, heavier than Indians had used before.

He wasn't passive-aggressive.

He was simply aggressive.

He played with respect, but he also played with power. A recent book, If Cricket Is a Religion, Sachin Is God, finds an important corollary to India's history in this. Before, because of a stagnant economy, nutrition was a problem. India couldn't outslug rivals. It needed spin bowlers and crafty batsmen. An inferiority complex developed. Despite his greatness, somewhere deep inside, Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, who retired two years before Sachin debuted, seemed terribly insecure. After he became famous, he turned down a membership to London's exclusive Marylebone Cricket Club - the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of cricket - because, once, a guard there didn't recognise him. The slights burned until they became a part of him, his pilot light, defining both him and the nation he represented.

Sachin isn't from that India.

His international debut came a year before India opened up its economy. His rise mirrored India's early-90s rise, when foreign corporations arrived in India for the first time, accounts swelling with advertising dollars, looking around for a face. They found Sachin.

He was India's first modern sports star, a combination of Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, because his rise mirrored a nation's economic rise, and he forever changed sports celebrity and marketing in India. Once, when an American company executive contacted his agent and wanted to understand what place Sachin held in Indian culture, the agent didn't quote the number of Test wins, or international centuries. He said, simply, that Sachin endorsed Audemars Piguet watches, and that the company made a model just for him. The executive was sold.

Sachin has been a star since he was a boy. Cops had to stand guard outside his 12th-grade exams. Despite the attention, he's remained dignified. There are no porn stars. He grants few audiences. He is the man Indians count on when things are at their worst.

Two weeks after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, India's 9/11, with the country reeling, India played a Test match against England. Sachin anchored the match, his performance rising to meet the stakes of the day, scoring more than 100 runs without getting out, which would be like dropping 50 in the NBA Finals. A century, it's called. His success, which he dedicated to those suffering in his hometown, added to his legend. Over coffee one evening, his current agent asked me, essentially, if Derek Jeter had a Secret Service detail. He was completely serious. I laughed out loud. No, I told him. He seemed surprised. Everywhere Sachin goes, the government of India protects him.

He's a national treasure.

Now his career is nearing its end, and fans are left with beautiful memories, to be sure, but also questions.

What does Sachin's retirement mean for cricket?

What does it mean for India?

Out on the edges of Delhi, huge apartment buildings stretch to the horizon. Ugly concrete boxes, row after row of them. If Bruce Springsteen were from India, he'd sing about these streets. There are things being built here. There are things being torn down

Elephant in the slow lane
The highway runs past ancient ruins, and the lights of the cricket ground. Tomorrow, I'll see South Africa-West Indies. Today, I'm going to play cricket with little Sachin and his friends. I've brought a surprise for him. It's a Sachin Tendulkar signature series cricket bat made from pure English willow. It'll be his first proper bat, and when Deepchand told him about it last night, Sachin had trouble going to sleep. We ride out toward the suburban slums. I'm twisting around to see the wrecked castle when Deepchand shouts, "You see elephant?"

What? I turn around. There's an elephant in the slow lane. Cars whip past and the elephant just lumbers, oblivious, carrying people patiently to their destination. There's a freaking elephant in the slow lane.

"What happens if a car hits the elephant?" I ask.

"The car is damaged," Deepchand says. "The elephant is OK."

Like America in the '50s
There are elephants on the highway. There are elephant-sized metaphors shuffling alongside. This is a nation with a foot in both the past and present. India is at an end and a beginning. Over drinks in Delhi with my friends Candace and Lydia, we talk about this. Lydia is a correspondent for the New York Times and one of the world's experts on developing nations. Talking journalism with her is like talking cricket with Sachin. She cautions me to avoid trying to figure out what India is, or what it isn't, or to draw conclusions. "It leads you down all of these blind alleys," she tells me. "It defies all efforts to simplify."

She's right. I'm not sure what any of this means, or how cricket or Sachin fits into it, or even if he'll actually retire, but this is a critical time for the nation, just as it's a critical time for cricket. Their ambitions and threats are the same. Anyone who's here for even a few days can tell that. India today seems a lot like America in the mid-50s.

This is largely a pre-ironic society. Yes, there is a rich history of satire, and modern exceptions - the '50s also produced Jack Kerouac - but the earnestness with which people love Sachin is reflected in many aspects of the culture. There's no place, yet, for an Indian Daily Show. Elephants aren't for statues representing a bygone era, like the blue mustang outside Denver's airport. They are for the slow lane.

Movies are expected to end a certain way. Heroes in those movies are expected to behave a certain way. In his definitive book on Mumbai, Maximum City, author Suketu Mehta describes an Indian audience's reaction when the hero of a film turned out to be a terrorist. They ransacked the theatre. It does not seem strange to an Indian filmgoer that the songs in the movies have nothing to do with the plot. Mehta writes:

"The suspension of disbelief in India is prompt and generous, beginning before the audience enters the theatre itself. Disbelief is easy to suspend in a land where belief is so rampant and vigorous. And not just in India; audiences in the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia are also pre-cynical. They still believe in motherhood, patriotism, and true love; Hollywood and the West have moved on."

Commercialism is a new mistress in sports. The Indian Premier League, which plays 20-over cricket, started three years ago. The creation of the IPL is India's Dodgers-leave-Brooklyn moment. Money is changing the sport. The change is seen by most as good. Any achievement by an Indian is good, something to be admired in the light. For many Indians, especially those who speak English and are trying to navigate the brave new world of economic revolution, the issue of identity is an important one. Excellence is tied up in that search. Indian writers are judged by the size of the advance, not the magic of their words. Indian artists are judged by the price fetched at auction, not the feelings they create in someone who stands before their canvas. Open the paper any random day to find an example. When famous Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai met Dustin Hoffman at a Lakers game, the tabloids report, she talked to him about "new market-tapping agendas and global trends". Not acting. Not his construction of Benjamin Braddock or Ted Kramer. They didn't talk craft. They talked money.

Over drinks, Lydia tells me one I hadn't seen. Indians are obsessed with the Guinness Book of World Records. Obsessed.

India still believes in the simple beauty of success.

Irony and cynicism come next.

"Irony requires a certain amount of self-confidence," Lydia says. "You have to have built enough of an identity to turn around and reject it, or to laugh at it. I think that's something that takes time."

The kids are all right
The kids see Deepchand and me walking down the street and furiously make preparations. One of them yells, "Wickets!" and they spring to action, setting up a stack of bricks. Our field is the only greenish space in the neighborhood, dirt, really, strewn with bits of trash. The kids introduce themselves. There's Sachin. He's quiet, with a wide smile and a laugh that comes out a chortle, rushed, almost as if it's surprised him. Another one, the most confident, tells me his name is Sunny. That's Sunil Gavaskar's nickname. He's 13. The brashest kid, the cockiest, is named Deepak.

I pull out the bat.

A neighborhood kid winds up and bowls to me. The first few, I deflect. Then I get into one, a full baseball-style turn, and wallop it over the crumbling brick fence at the end of the field. Six!

"Good knock!" one of the kids tells me.

When I pop out, Sachin bats next. He crushes a high-arcing drive that lands in the trash-strewn woods. The kids hunt in the mud for the ball. The day fills with laughter. The old women sitting in the shade of a tree watch the game. Deepchand and Sachin are playing cricket for the first time together in Delhi. They are happy, tossing the ball, dad bowling and son batting. The cab driver seems suddenly lighter.

"You're a kid again!" I yell at him across the field.

He throws back his head and laughs.

The boys fight over who'll bat next. They race back to the wicket. Sachin wins. They want me to bowl. The first time, instead of windmilling with my arm locked, I throw it like a baseball. That's a no-no. It's called chucking. I'm a chucker. Sunny explains.

"Full-arm action," he says. "Can I show you?"

He places my fingers along the seams. I wind up and clean bowl Deepchand. I've gotten him out. The kids give me high-fives. "Pretty good," Sunny says.

The game is no longer tedious. It's alive, inside me, in these children, even in the women grinning at us from beneath the tree. I look down at the end of the field and catch Sachin staring at his new Sachin signature bat, showing it off to his friends.

The kids decide we should play a game - five overs, two teams of four. Sachin and I go first. One player stands at each edge of the makeshift wicket. To score a run, each runner has to make it safely to the other end. The farther the hit, the more times we can complete the circuit.

I put my notebook down. The sky is blue. The sun pans across my face, warming the afternoon. The boys are happy. Deepchand is happy. I am happy, too, playing with the neighborhood kids, although when I am bowled, when I'm out, I feel like I've let a ten-year-old down. Cricket, like most team sports, is a personal game but also one of intense connection. It is both individual and communal. I'm left to watch. Sachin crushes it, six after six. Sunny kills it, too, spraying the ball around the makeshift field, over the fence. We finish with 49 runs. That's the target.

The next team scores fast, too. Deepak is a beast. He's barrel-chested. He hits a booming six, and when the ball is finally found, he hits another. He hits a third one, high into the air, which will come down in the trees and in the trash, a ball that will never be found, ending our match in a draw. He watches it sail into the Delhi sky, and he poses.

"I am Sehwag!" he says.

Where pure aggression comes from
I am Sehwag.

As Sachin grew up watching Sunil, Sehwag grew up watching Sachin. He saw Sachin's aggressive stance. He took what he saw, internalised it and spat out something new, something dangerous, even. There's a reason some old-school fans find him vulgar, and Deepak screams his name.

Where does something like that come from?

We leave Deepchand's house and drive toward the airport, past the endless storefronts featuring posters of bodybuilders. Strength is in. Out on the edges of Delhi, huge apartment buildings stretch to the horizon. Ugly concrete boxes, row after row of them. If Bruce Springsteen were from India, he'd sing about these streets. There are things being built here. There are things being torn down. A shepherd drives a flock of sheep down the road, turning them into a weedy lot, the proposed site of a cultural centre. He wears a red turban, carries a staff.

Sehwag grew up in these badlands. He saw Sachin through the prism of the gritty world around him, looking past the grace to the power. Before Sehwag, Indian opening batsmen were supposed to take the shine off the ball. That's the cricket phrase. Take the shine off. Break it in. Wear down the bowler. Sehwag would take the shine off by going for fours and sixes. He got a reputation for dogging it on singles. And if Sachin gave birth to Sehwag, then a whole group of younger sluggers have taken it a step further. At least Sehwag still plays Test cricket. Some newer stars don't.

The Indian team is a blunt object, 15 men created not in the image of Tendulkar, exactly, but in the image of the new India that he both inspired and represented. Sachin carried the team alone in the '90s, but in the past decade a generation of hyper-aggressive Indian stars came of age. Former captain Sourav Ganguly ripped off his shirt and twirled it above his head on the balcony of the uptight Lord's Cricket Ground in London.

They are celebrities now. They frighten opposing bowlers. They themselves are not afraid. Two years ago, the team changed its jerseys from powder blue to a deeper colour. It seemed less meek.

I am Sehwag.

"The aggression, the brashness," says Bhattacharya, the cricket writer turned novelist. "It's now something which Indians see that this is what we have to do to assert our place in the world. We've been f---ed over for thousands of years. Everyone has conquered us. Now we're finding our voice. We're the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are going to buy your companies. Our cricket team is like going to f---ing abuse you back, and we're going to win and we're going to shout in your face after we win. People love that."

We turn on Najafgarh Road. Shop workers give us directions. Everyone knows The Butcher. In the midst of this urban blight, there is a single planted field. This all used to be farmland. Now there are big piles of sand, the dust of something old waiting to become something new. White smoke rises from burning trash. Mechanics fixing motorcycles on the sidewalk tell us to take a right at the feeble old tree past the shrine to the monkey god.

This is Sehwag's street.

When his father died, the neighbors tell us, he moved his mother to a nice place in central Delhi. Other family members live in the house now. There, they point. That's his aunt. The home is down an alley, where Sehwag used to pound cricket balls. "He was always a long hitter," a man says.

When India's not playing, the stadiums are pretty dead. That game has explained itself, all right: Indians aren't as cricket-mad as I thought. There is a surprising lack of street-level buzz. Sure, the televisions are going mad, and the newspapers and radio programmes and billboards. The hype machine is kicking at max RPMs. But it seems just that. Hype

The house has a big black gate and a bamboo fence to offer privacy for the patio. There's an orange lantern and a rooftop terrace. It's the middle-class home that Deepchand dreams of for his family. This is the home of a grain merchant who moved to the city from a village, wanting to build a new life.

Sachin is the son of a poet.

Sehwag is the son of man who sold wheat and rice.

The last of a dying breed?
"In the golden age of cricket," Bhattacharya says, "you'd never be without rotis."

Halfway around the world, I feel at home here, a group of sports writers at dinner. We're crowded around an upstairs table somewhere deep inside the alleyed maze of Old Delhi. It could be Augusta, Georgia. They've brought our food but not our bread. No rotis? Bhattacharya hits the running joke. Gallows humour. In the golden age of cricket, the dal wouldn't be bland. In the golden age of cricket, there wouldn't be so much grease in the mutton. It's never far away. Any conversation about cricket quickly arrives here: Are the changes designed to help cricket exist in a modern world actually killing the game?

They tell a story of Sunil Gavaskar crushing a six in a long-ago Test match and stepping back to curse himself. He knew he needed to calm down, to play for the long haul, not just one six-and-out. Adrenaline and aggression are enemies of Test success. Now some of the artistry has been bred out. The new formats have given birth to dramatic changes in strategy and in the skill set required. For football fans, imagine if a television network asked the NFL to shorten a few games a year to 15 minutes. Then imagine if, because of the success, it seemed inevitable that soon all football games would last 15 minutes. Now imagine if everyone who played football lost the ability to play the longer game.

"That's one of those existential cricket dilemmas," Bhattacharya says. "We don't know. We all live in fear of Test cricket perishing at the hands of Twenty20. It's something we all worry about. We don't actually know."

So, when Tendulkar retires, will he take an era of cricket with him?

"Sachin's symbolic value is very strong," Bhattacharya says. "He might be the last one."

Sachin is a bridge in a sport that my friends fear is burning its bridges.

A delicate sort of question
The next afternoon we are all at the game. Bhattacharya sits next to me. His first book, a cricket travelogue called Pundits from Pakistan, has been my faithful companion on this journey. He has a big day tomorrow. People magazine just called. It needs to take his picture at 8 a.m. His novel The Sly Company of People Who Care, is hot here in India. He has a face made for a photographer, in that writerly way, delicate, almost pretty, except for the crooked nose that hints at a stormy past. He's arrogant as hell, but in the same way I am, so we get along great.

I'm learning the rules. I feel more at home every day. The stadium is like any American stadium: (too-)loud music and ham-fisted promotion. The fans sit quietly until a JumboTron camera finds them, then they go nuts. Look! Everyone's a celebrity!

But there's something missing.

The stands are half-empty. These are two great teams, elite sides, evenly matched, on a beautiful Delhi day, in a city of 14 million people, and most seats are empty. They'll stay that way. It's not just Delhi. When India's not playing, the stadiums are pretty dead. That game has explained itself, all right: Indians aren't as cricket-mad as I thought. There is a surprising lack of street-level buzz. Sure, the televisions are going mad, and the newspapers and radio programs and billboards. The hype machine is kicking at max RPMs. But it seems just that. Hype. A mile wide and an inch deep. The former Indian player's pressbox eulogy makes sense. India has gained an impossible amount in the past 20 years. Has it lost something, too?

I turn to Rahul. "Do Indians still love the actual game of cricket?"

There's a pause.

"It's a delicate sort of question," he says.

Another pause.

"The thing about Indians' love for cricket is, a lot of it is having something to support India at," he says. "A lot of it is celebrity. People in love with [team captain MS] Dhoni instead of the actual sport. It happens all the time. In the past five years, you find that matches not featuring India don't draw crowds. It does seem on some level the love is not for the sport itself but for some of the things it stands for."

Cricket is everywhere. It's on 24/7. It's on red carpets with Bollywood bombshells and in corporate boardrooms. But the more it is, the less it is.

"We've been so neutered by cricket now," Rahul says. "There's so much of it. It's reached a point where you can be oblivious to it. Indian fans now just watch India."

The afternoon unspools. Friends come and go. Many jokes, and a few serious conversations. Rahul is quiet. An hour or two passes. He turns to me. "The question you asked me… "

He's been thinking. India leads you down blind alleys. It is a place with many different regions and religions and cultures. The Indian national cricket squad binds them. You must understand that to understand the mania surrounding the team.

The team's rabid popularity, he says, is a reflection of rising national ambition, of pride in national achievement. The Guinness Book of World Records, squared. In a republic with a short history and a thin national narrative, cricket and Bollywood are India's baseball and apple pie. Rahul makes air quotes and says, "Indian culture."

"People think if I'm Indian," he says, "I have to access this part of our culture. It's in our blood."

More time passes. The game continues to drag. I think about tomorrow's flight and my trip to Bangalore. In a few days, I'll finally see India play in India. That's ground zero. I'm ready to see the obsession up close, see if I'll find passion or more hype. Next to me, Rahul is in thought, too. Something's bothering him.

"I wonder," he says, "if I've been too cynical about India and its passion for cricket."

CHAPTER FOUR: Bangalore hype
Morning dawns ghost-white. We drive into a wall of smog. Pollution is the price of progress. One of the prices, anyway. Some drivers pull over. Jets scream overhead. We cannot see them. The New Delhi airport is nearby. We cannot see it either. Soon we can't even see the car directly in front of us. Two disembodied red lights float in the chemical haze. The driver slows. He finds the turn at the last minute and screeches to the terminal. I'm dreading the usual chaos of an Indian airport.

But once inside, I am transported. Is this the future? The place is new and serene. The floors are shiny. A fancy coffee kiosk teems with under-caffeinated commuters. The food court has a Subway, a Baskin-Robbins, a McDonald's, a Yo!China. There's a bookstore. A bronze elephant towers in the lobby.

That's when I see it.

There's a restaurant named Dilli Streat. It's a take on Delhi's famous street-food scene. It has slightly dressed-up versions of blue-collar classics. The concept is an ironic mixture of old and new, with a winking nod to a past seen as quaint yet valuable. Cynicism and irony, on back-to-back days.

India is changing at lightning speed.

The new camera-smashing Indian heroes
Players walk through the lobby of the Royal Gardenia hotel. Wide-eyed young fans and gossip-hunting reporters slowly circle, the light and dark of fame. I'm sitting on a couch. A woman approaches. She's from a local tabloid. She wants me to take a paparazzi picture of an English cricket player, a wealthy Indian liquor tycoon and the tycoon's son. They're together in the bar. She wants me to be her Trojan horse.

"We have a lot of pressure from our editor-in-chief to get the story," she says. "You know that pressure? OK. So I need a picture. I'm local. They've seen me. They know my face. And, um, so we would like to take their pictures to publish. To print. So… we wondered if you could help us."

"I can't do it."

"I just want you to take a picture. That's it."

"No."

"No? It's just a picture."

"Then you go take it."

I tell her that I'm a reporter, too, a professional, not a tourist, and I cannot be talked into anything, much less this.

"I could go take the picture myself," she says. "I just don't want my camera smashed. That's the issue."

"They won't smash your camera," I say.

"Of course they will," she says. "He's done it before. The kid."

Her editors don't want cricket info. They want to know about the players' lives. This is a fairly recent development. Everything is changing. Lines must be crossed, ethics blurred. The newspaper industry is still rising here. Competitive celebrity gossip is corrosive, and it leads, almost inevitably, to the taking down of heroes - the end of heroes, even, for deep earnestness cannot survive a daily diet of snark. I think of Jane Leavy's magnificent book about Mickey Mantle, and her documenting the moment when Americans began viewing our idols differently. India, it seems, is approaching that day. Another question about Tendulkar arises: Is he the final star athlete created by that deeply earnest society, the one with its suspension of disbelief fully intact?

Is he the last hero?

Cricket is Bollywood by a different name. The match-fixing scandal of the late-90s was the end of an innocence about the game, and Sachin's role in steadying the ship afterward is part of people's great love for him. But the lid is off. The readers demand information. The pressure is great. Where do they eat dinner? Whom are they dating? What movies do they like? What's their favourite food? What's to come? Are they on drugs? Are they taking steroids? What are their failures and weaknesses and scandals?

"Are they the same as us?" the tabloid reporter asks.

They will be soon.

Kids in the lobby
The thirst of a tabloid reporter and the love of a starstruck child are fruit from the same tree. Maybe the difference is intent, and maybe it's innocence, which sounds like the pitter-patter of tiny feet on marble floors. Kids chase their favorite cricketers around the hotel. Their joy restores faith, washes away cynicism. Maybe the soul of cricket can survive this landslide of change. Maybe there's more than hype.

To the cute little stalkers, there are many heroes besides Sachin. Parents hover nearby, briefly children again. Virat Kohli is eating in the coffee shop against the back wall covered with ivy. He's got a woman with him. Kids hang by the door. Ten minutes is an eternity to a child who's a few feet from his hero.

Vineet Sethi sits with his daughters, 15-year-old Radhika and nine-year-old Nandini. The girls started plotting the moment this game was announced for Bangalore. High-level strategy. When Vineet got home from work, the girls were ready to go. It's D-Day. Who will they meet?

Finally, mercifully, Kohli stands to leave. The girls rise to meet him at the door. Kohli has a faux-hawk and a tight black T-shirt. He signs. His date carries a designer handbag. Radhika is checking out the signature when Nandini's eyes widen. OMG!

It's Sehwag.

Up close, he's stocky and balding. He stops to sign. Then Gautam Gambhir comes down the hall. The girls are losing their minds now. Dad asks if he'll pose for a photo. Gautam smiles for the camera.

"I'm gonna faint," Radhika says.

The newspaper industry is still rising here. Competitive celebrity gossip is corrosive, and it leads, almost inevitably, to the taking down of heroes - the end of heroes, even, for deep earnestness cannot survive a daily diet of snark

The girls can't stop looking at the autograph book, then leaning into each other, then giggling, then looking, then giggling. "I cannot believe you told Virat Kohli that I'm in love with him!" Radhika says.

Vineet laughs.

"I only like Gautam," Radhika says. "I don't like Virat Kohli anymore. I used to like him a lot, but he was with a girl. A nice one."

Dad is still laughing but has that worried-dad look on his face.

"Why not Sehwag?" I ask.

"He's married," Radhika says. "And has two kids."

Vineet looks a bit pale. "I'm not listening," he says.

The girls cover their faces with their hands, tapping their feet, tingling with nervous energy. I feel it. The passion I looked for at the other cricket matches doesn't exist around the sport, but it does in the Royal Gardenia lobby. Indians might not be obsessed with the sport of cricket per se, but they are with the Indian cricket team. They are unhealthy, myopic and without measure or self-control, and that's just when they see their idols in the flesh.

I cannot imagine what it's like when they're actually watching them play.

CHAPTER FIVE: Game day
The morning of the India-England match, I wake up anxious. No newspaper, no television. No more hype. The more someone tells me something matters, the more suspicious I become. The game stands on its own today. It could bring my moment of rapture - or deep disappointment. What if the thing I'm hungry for is too rare to just happen upon? What if it no longer exists?

The driver picks me up outside the hotel. The traffic is terrible as we make our way toward the stadium. I can see the light stanchions in the distance. I wonder what they'll shine on today. Somehow, on a lark to be introduced to a new sport, I've stumbled into a rapidly changing world. Things are being gained, and things are being lost. What if I've come to cricket too late? Other cricket reporters sense this fear; one asks me if I'll be writing a positive or negative story. I'm not sure. It seems that the sporting future in India is the present in America. I can see their tomorrow.

The driver drops me at the main gate. I walk around for several hours. The air smells like fried food. Vendors sell Indian snacks and sugarcane juice. Cops, wary of another cricket riot, whack sticks against trees whenever someone stops. There is no still today.

"Sachin!" a man yells. "Sachin's last World Cup!"

"He will not retire after the World Cup," another insists.

A group of fans are being interviewed by a television reporter. They're young and funny. They're intentionally extreme, with knowing smirks.

"After 300 years of them ruling us," one says, "it's time we gave it back."

"We're gonna trash the English," another says.

"They play like little boys," says the third.

They seem so confident, not people who need any outside validation. Maybe Sachin isn't needed any longer. Maybe Sehwag is more representative. That hasn't occurred to me until now. Later I'll talk to an Indian journalist, Vaibhav Vats, who is writing about cricket as a window into national self-esteem. He thinks Sachin isn't as important as he used to be.

"It's about wealth," Vats says. "So you don't look for external things to shore up your own sense of identity. There isn't the identity crisis there was then."

Fans wave Indian flags. For 10 rupees, about 22 cents, dozens of entrepreneurs paint Indian flags on people's faces. Other kids take blue paint and, emulating a famous billboard around the country, tag themselves "Bleed Blue". Sports marketing creating fan behaviour creating more sports marketing: a snake eating its tail.

A man chases me down. He's wearing a long robe with the Indian flag painted on it, along with the cricket alpha and omega: "Sachin" and "Sehwag." There's a young boy with him. The boy opens up a binder. It's full of stories about the man wearing the robe. They point to one. He's offered to trade his kidney for a ticket to this game. He says he wants to watch cricket. I think he wants to be a star.

Finally, I slip through a gate.

It's almost time.

Finally, the game is at hand
We hear the cheers as the Indian bus gets closer. The soldier on the tower with the rifle stands up from his red chair. Radios squawk. The bus pulls to a stop. Submachine-gun-toting troops in tight t-shirts and khaki fatigues form a wall of flesh and metal.

Sachin Tendulkar is third off the bus. I recognise him now. He's wearing headphones, yesterday's smile replaced by determination. We enter the stadium behind the team. The place simmers with anticipation. I trade my press-box seat for one in the bleachers. Today, I'm a fan. Andy Zaltzman, a cricket-mad British stand-up comedian, sits next to me. The speakers play music so loud we cannot talk when it's on. "Don't need it," Andy says every time there's some marketing flourish. The broadcast people interview some fans. "Dhoni's hot," a young woman says.

The broadcast people interview Dhoni. "How are you coping with the hype and the pressure?" the man asks.

"We're looking forward to the national anthem," Dhoni says.

The music begins, and the crowd comes to its feet. Here we go. Andy saw a game in this stadium on television once, India versus Pakistan, and the cacophony when an Indian player bowled his opponent seemed to come out of his television and transport his London home across two oceans and several lesser seas. That noise is something he cannot forget. He's chasing that ghost, left a wife and two kids at home for six weeks to chase it halfway around the world. I'm chasing something, too. The appointed hour has arrived. I've heard it all week, from fans and writers, and now I hear it once more.

"Wait 'til Sachin comes to bat," Andy says.

In case you were wondering: here, now, the rules
This time, I'm ready for whatever is about to happen.

After 10 days I know the basic calculus of cricket. Each team has 50 overs and 10 wickets. For baseball fans, think of it as 50 at-bats and 10 outs. All overs last six balls, whether any of them are hit or not. A player is out if just one of his hits is caught, or if he misses the ball and it strikes the wicket behind him, or if a fielder throws the ball into the wicket before he completes a run.

When either the overs or wickets are gone, the innings is over; an innings is a set of 50 overs, and each team, in one-day cricket, has one. Wickets and overs are the two resources a team has when setting a target, or, if it bats second, chasing it. Figuring out when and how to risk them is the chess match. A wicket can be gone with one moment of carelessness.

Sachin's agent once brought a business partner to a game only to have Sachin get out on the first ball. The ball doesn't care that there are executives in a luxury suite. There are 11 opponents constantly shifting around the green field, looking to trick, to trap, to slide into a spot where a ball is coming.

The cricket pitch is a dangerous ocean. The batsman is a tiny boat.

Constructing magic
Sachin's name is lost in the cheers. The crowd roars even in anticipation of it. Once again Sachin walks onto the field. Sehwag is with him. They are leading off, alternating at-bats, an entire modern history of a country between them. Sunil begat Sachin begat Sehwag. From insecurity to confidence to aggression. Which will be best today?

Sachin looks up at the crowd. He rubs his hands together. Spits on them. Sehwag takes one practice cut. It's time. Sehwag hits an immediate four, one that's almost caught. The Indian fans jump, then laugh. Sehwag pops up, and it is again almost caught. He's swinging for the fences.

Sachin plays slower, taking his runs where he can get them, defending the other pitches away. Shades of Gavaskar? "Sachin has this aura of calmness around him," Andy says. "Federer has it. Brady seems to have it."

Then, a victim of his own aggression, Sehwag is out. He slams the bat down. Gambhir, the hotel girl's idol, comes in. As he gets comfortable batting, Sachin slows down more, protecting himself. When he sees a pitch to drive, he steps into it. His first four of the day. The speakers play Bon Jovi's "It's My Life". Sachin hits another one, then gets conservative, taking no risks. He's trying to bat 35 or 40 overs, to anchor his team, to give openings to the other batsmen by consuming the attention of the bowlers. The crowd senses something special and chants, "Sachin! Sachin! Sachin!"

A feeling arises, a rare one, that you are part of a group watching something special. The power of sport is that, on occasion, it redeems the messes we create around it. Cricket can be stronger than the forces changing it. Victories are fleeting, but the poems are what matters. I don't know if cricket is about to be ruined, or if Sachin is no longer needed, if he's retiring or if he'll defy expectations and play 10 more years. These are things we can guess about but never know.

I do know this: I am a fan. I am sunburned but do not care. I lose track of time. That's not a narrative flourish. Hours seem like moments.

Rapture comes to the people here. I see Sachin constructing a score, and I understand the planning, and the years of experience, that lead a man to this field on this day, and to the artistry he now holds as part of himself, like a chamber of his heart. We are congregants in a church. We are watching the son of a poet. The stand-up comedian is serious. This is a perfect at-bat, Andy tells me. This is art, and I am lucky to see it. Soon, Sachin will be gone. This feeling will be gone. Right now, it is alive. It has the power of a name, immortal and pure.

"You don't have to know anything about it," my friend Gokul says.

"It's almost a religious experience," Andy says, "seeing Tendulkar play so well in front of his home crowd. It's a communal worship."

England sends in Graeme Swann, the best spin bowler in the world. They are targeting Sachin. One mistake and he's gone. The crowd grows tense. Swann winds up. The roar of the crowd rises, like the start of a football game. The ball arrives. The crack echoes through the stadium.

Sachin has hit it off the scoreboard.

It's an uppercut. A knockout blow. A roaring Up yours! A six. Flags wave and shake. Three fans wearing clown wigs blow their whistles over and over.

Swann winds up again.

Sachin crushes it, another uppercut, over the fence. Two pitches, two sixes. The air is sucked out of the stadium, and Bon Jovi is played again. But now, incredibly, the crowd noise is louder than the sound system. The real finally trumps the fake. Swann looks broken.

Sachin is building toward a century. The crowd wants it for him, for themselves. The noise doesn't ebb between bowls. He's got 72, then a four gives him 76. The clown wigs go batty. Sachin goes up high to get 78. The crowd needs this. A wave passes five full revolutions around the grandstand. Eighty-two. Eighty-six. The people behind me are barking now. The noise is constant. I am inside the soul of cricket. I get it. I will be back again, like Andy, chasing this ghost. Across town, Sachin's agent's BlackBerry buzzes. "Wonderful moment," one reads. An English friend writes, "Sachin is killing us. Awesome." One executive wants to put his company logo on Sachin's bat. The sister of Sachin's first agent, the man who died in the car wreck, writes, "Hope this one was for Mark."

Sachin gets to 98.

The sound system plays, "We Will Rock You!" The crowd pronounces the last two words as one. Rockyou! Rockyou! Rockyou! Everyone in the stadium is standing, again, and typing this 25 hours later, I get chill bumps. Again.

Sachin hits a four.

He's done it. A century. I've never been in a stadium that feels like this one. Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, people from different castes and classes, speakers of a dozen languages, all citizens in the Republic of Sachin. The stern cops give wide smiles and thumbs-ups. The chant goes from "Sachin! Sachin!" to "Hoo… ha… IN-DI-A!" They are interchangeable.

Finally, at 120, Sachin pops out. He walks off, and the crowd rises once again. The people lean over the railings, trying for one more moment with their hero.

He waves his bat and disappears.

Sachin's gone.

Falling apart
The Indian players collapse without him.

They leave too many runs on the table, lost without their anchor. Their score is 338. They cannot play defence or bowl, and England steadily mounts a comeback, putting up run after run. The worrying begins. The fans sense something, a fatal flaw built into this team of sluggers. They can all hit the ball a mile, but they can't get anybody out. Power has its limits. They are wasting Sachin's brilliance. The noise dies down. The stadium is still. People look into themselves. The team is a proxy for the nation, so what does an Indian collapse tell them about India? About India without Sachin?

England scores, off big hits, off bad pitches, off lazy defense. The India outfielders don't run down balls that go for fours. Next to me, Andy finds hope. With 15 overs left, England need 102 runs off 90 balls. "It's bizarrely easy," Andy says.

An Indian writer shakes his head. "We've lost this game," he says.

The fans agree. People file, en masse, to the exits. The wire-service reporters type their stories. I'm spinning from the reversal in fortunes. A fourth of the seats are empty. Now a third. England needs 61 runs from 54 balls. Now 59 from 48.

Then India gets a wicket.

Then a second in a row.

He is a bridge, and it is vital to the psyche of a nation that he remains intact. He gets it. That's why he never loses focus. Nothing, it turns out, is effortless. In his room, he seems tired, worn out mentally and physically. He needs a break

The crowd comes alive. What does this revival tell them about their nation? About themselves? Andy shifts uncomfortably. The place shakes. The whistles are back out from the clown wigs. The barking returns. People howl. England needs 57 runs from 39 balls. An Indian player makes a huge diving catch. Hustle has returned. India has returned.

"I didn't see this coming," Andy says.

There is dancing in the aisles. The Indian team is getting more wickets, which eliminates the strongest English batsmen and puts pressure on the bottom of the line-up. England needs 50 from 28. Now 29 from 11. It seems finished. The local in front of me tweets: "It's amazing to watch India in India."

Suddenly, England counters. Two big-bang sixes, and it's 14 runs from six balls. One more over. I can barely breathe. Nobody can. The noise is deafening now, rising in crescendo before each bowl. Imagine a football kickoff every 30 seconds.

The Indians are going to win. England needs 12 from five, then 11 from four. The "India" chant returns.

Then England hits a six, crushed, into the stands.

"Unbelievable," the Indian writer says.

The target is now five runs from three balls. England singles. It's four runs from two. The English get a double. We are down to the last ball. Two runs from one. That's it now. All the hype, and the planning, and all these hours, down to a moment. The infield comes in. The crowd rises.

The stadium quiets.

A man folds his hands in prayer. The clown wigs are silent. One sits down. The local reporter puts up his notebook. The Indian bowler winds up, the English batsman swings, makes contact, crack, it's happening so fast, the fielder rushes over, gets the ball in. England scores only one. India did it!

In the moments after the end, there's confusion. I'm confused. The crowd noise is strange. I look around. The scoreboard is hard to read. We've spent eight hours and two minutes in these seats. Has India won? Has England? What happened? I'm looking to Andy, trying to understand. That's when I realise: I did the math wrong. Two to win, which means, after all that drama, my God…

It's a tie.

Carrying the hopes of a billion countrymen
One last stop remains before the airport. "We've got 30 seconds," his agent says.

A special key card grants access to the 18th floor. Three plainclothes bodyguards look us over. A sign hangs on the door. "Shhh," it reads, "I'm sleeping like a baby." The agent knocks.

Sachin Tendulkar opens the door. "Come, come," he says.

A tangle of wires covers the bedside table closest to his pillow. There's a Diet Coke and a bottle of water. A Hindu shrine is on the other side. There's a book across the room, The Last Nizam, about the end of one era and the beginning of another, about a king who lost his throne in a time of great change.

His agent explains my journey to Sachin. "He didn't know anything about cricket before he came," he says.

Sachin looks at me. He seems confused. "Hmmmmm," he says.

His phone rings. The ringtone is U2. We chat, and he loosens. He doesn't overtalk. It's strange. There actually is an aura of calm around him. It must be how he's survived. At the centre of this mania is a reservoir of peace, focus and determination. I ask if he spends a lot of time in America.

"Not really," he says. "I have a lot of friends there, but it's too far for me to travel."

"I'm about to get on a 15-hour flight," I say.

He laughs and grimaces with me. A trip to the states, he says, needs several weeks to be worth the flight. "I don't have 15 to 20 days," he says.

He's carried the burden of a billion people for more than 20 years. Just outside the hotel is a billboard with his stern face looking down on the city. Its tagline is direct: "We've waited 28 years to hold the Cup. Hope that wait ends now." Heroes don't punch clocks.

Sachin Tendulkar says goodbye and closes his door, while, in every direction, a vast nation sees its hopes and dreams in him, for at least a little while longer. I step into the elevator, then a car, then three flights, then my car, then my house. I return from blind alleys and brightly lit fields, having found my moment of rapture and, at the end, the man who created it. I've found both the riddle and the answer, and I wonder what it must cost someone to be both of those things. One part of my conversation with Tendulkar will return to me every time India plays in this World Cup.

His agent told me he's aware of what he means to people, of the symbolic importance of being both the beginning and end of something. He is a bridge, and it is vital to the psyche of a nation that he remains intact. He gets it. That's why he never loses focus. Nothing, it turns out, is effortless. In his room, he seems tired, worn out mentally and physically. He needs a break. I ask when was the last time he had 20 days off in a row with nothing to do. No balls to hit or billions to represent.

"I'm waiting for that time to come," he says.

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com, where this article was first published

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SuperGLS on April 11, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    Loved this article. Being an American whose first insight into cricket was always Cricket for Dummies I found it to be quite interesting. I've been a diehard cricket fan for a few years now and I can't even remember a time when I didn't know who Sachin was.

  • hemuslam on April 11, 2011, 0:12 GMT

    Excellent Article.. Hope from now on AMERICAN's will learn cricket..

  • on April 10, 2011, 19:37 GMT

    What a brilliant article! This gives me such an insight into the Indian way of life! And told so brilliantly; every time I want to remember the world cup I will read this article, but I will never forget when that game was tied! The world cup frenzy rubbed off on my: a 16 year old English boy!

  • on April 10, 2011, 13:50 GMT

    You got it right, Wright! Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, people from different castes and classes, speakers of a dozen languages, all citizens in the Republic of Sachin. The chant goes from "Sachin! Sachin!" to "Hoo… ha… IN-DI-A!" They are interchangeable. They truly are!

  • on April 10, 2011, 13:24 GMT

    It is really true that Sachin represents the emergence of India on the world stage over the last 2 decades.......from an inward-looking old white elephant to a confident and ambitious bunch of billions........Indian cricket hasn't done it, but Indian cricket did a good job by changing itself to represent the new India....Sachin is the bridge between the old and the new......between the Gavaskers and the Gautams........the protectionist India and the 'emerging' India. Barack Obama said, India is no more emerging, it has already emerged. With this world cup win, Indian Cricket has emerged, too. Thanks for bringing this novel analogy between Cricket and India, or Sachin and India, so brilliantly!

  • on April 10, 2011, 11:43 GMT

    i wanted this article to be followed till last final match...... i never wanted this to be finished....amazing

  • on April 10, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    Thanks Mr. Thompson....I just revisited my life of last 21 years...I am in tears...thanks again. Sachin's aura and his relation to India is such any India couldn't express it in words...It had to be somebody from other country. Thanks again.

  • on April 10, 2011, 6:26 GMT

    Mr. Thompson.... You have stated and also failed to state what Cricket holds good in or country.. It is a religion but more than it at some time as well... A madness but less than it at sometimes as well

  • spanny007 on April 10, 2011, 5:59 GMT

    Thank you so much for the sublime article Mr.Thompson. Like a lot of Indians, I have difficulty expressing my emotions for Sachin. With tears running down my cheeks, I can assure you that you have helped us through your article. I am convinced that 2000 years from now, Sachin's name will be chanted along with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This is not a movie, nor a dream. This is the man they call Sachin! and I am just so lucky to have even lived in the same era as him

  • NRIGirl on April 10, 2011, 0:09 GMT

    That's a fantastic write up Wright! Thank you so much for taking us to the 'then and there'. Your article mesmerized us for hours... Though I am not a fan of cricket, my husband Israel is and he found this article and wanted me to read it for him. At the end I had become a huge fan - of cricket and of you!! Thank you!

  • SuperGLS on April 11, 2011, 0:59 GMT

    Loved this article. Being an American whose first insight into cricket was always Cricket for Dummies I found it to be quite interesting. I've been a diehard cricket fan for a few years now and I can't even remember a time when I didn't know who Sachin was.

  • hemuslam on April 11, 2011, 0:12 GMT

    Excellent Article.. Hope from now on AMERICAN's will learn cricket..

  • on April 10, 2011, 19:37 GMT

    What a brilliant article! This gives me such an insight into the Indian way of life! And told so brilliantly; every time I want to remember the world cup I will read this article, but I will never forget when that game was tied! The world cup frenzy rubbed off on my: a 16 year old English boy!

  • on April 10, 2011, 13:50 GMT

    You got it right, Wright! Hindus and Muslims, Sikhs and Christians, people from different castes and classes, speakers of a dozen languages, all citizens in the Republic of Sachin. The chant goes from "Sachin! Sachin!" to "Hoo… ha… IN-DI-A!" They are interchangeable. They truly are!

  • on April 10, 2011, 13:24 GMT

    It is really true that Sachin represents the emergence of India on the world stage over the last 2 decades.......from an inward-looking old white elephant to a confident and ambitious bunch of billions........Indian cricket hasn't done it, but Indian cricket did a good job by changing itself to represent the new India....Sachin is the bridge between the old and the new......between the Gavaskers and the Gautams........the protectionist India and the 'emerging' India. Barack Obama said, India is no more emerging, it has already emerged. With this world cup win, Indian Cricket has emerged, too. Thanks for bringing this novel analogy between Cricket and India, or Sachin and India, so brilliantly!

  • on April 10, 2011, 11:43 GMT

    i wanted this article to be followed till last final match...... i never wanted this to be finished....amazing

  • on April 10, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    Thanks Mr. Thompson....I just revisited my life of last 21 years...I am in tears...thanks again. Sachin's aura and his relation to India is such any India couldn't express it in words...It had to be somebody from other country. Thanks again.

  • on April 10, 2011, 6:26 GMT

    Mr. Thompson.... You have stated and also failed to state what Cricket holds good in or country.. It is a religion but more than it at some time as well... A madness but less than it at sometimes as well

  • spanny007 on April 10, 2011, 5:59 GMT

    Thank you so much for the sublime article Mr.Thompson. Like a lot of Indians, I have difficulty expressing my emotions for Sachin. With tears running down my cheeks, I can assure you that you have helped us through your article. I am convinced that 2000 years from now, Sachin's name will be chanted along with Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. This is not a movie, nor a dream. This is the man they call Sachin! and I am just so lucky to have even lived in the same era as him

  • NRIGirl on April 10, 2011, 0:09 GMT

    That's a fantastic write up Wright! Thank you so much for taking us to the 'then and there'. Your article mesmerized us for hours... Though I am not a fan of cricket, my husband Israel is and he found this article and wanted me to read it for him. At the end I had become a huge fan - of cricket and of you!! Thank you!

  • on April 9, 2011, 22:44 GMT

    superb writing, that touched my soul, the innocence, the beauty. hope to see more from you, thanks. come back to india.

  • on April 9, 2011, 22:33 GMT

    I couldn't stop reading. Brilliantly written Mr. Thompson. I hope you get to witness the less vulgar side of cricket, and actually get to see Sachin play a 5 day Test match. Perhaps in London, this July, possibly for the very last time.

  • on April 9, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    I'm a 17 year old Indian, and I'm as crazy about cricket as an Indian can, should and will be. As someone who's grown up in the hysteria, this was quite a unique read for me, as I've never witnessed an outsider's perspective of cricket before. This article has captured so beautifully every aspect of Indian cricket, I was floored! Especially the India-England match and the tie it resulted in. It was as good as watching the match live- goosebumps, wide eyes and anticipation included. I certainly hope Sachin will continue to be our knight in the shining armor for many more years to come! Our love for him will never cease, of that I am sure. Thank you so much for this amazing article!

  • on April 9, 2011, 19:23 GMT

    cricket in India ends the day Sachin exits cricket field forever

  • on April 9, 2011, 18:42 GMT

    Great story!. Surprised that he did learn so much about cricket at the end of it!

  • on April 9, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    What an article! The best I have ever read. It shows few very basic things. Writing does not need big words, complex ideas and over-analysis when it comes to sports. All it needs is an open mind and a good heart. Thank you Mr. Thompson.

  • Praxis on April 9, 2011, 14:25 GMT

    "But it seems just that. Hype. A mile wide and an inch deep."-probably the best lines to me. Very well written article this one, almost unique.

  • on April 9, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    absolutely brilliant piece of writing....I could not pull myself away from this article...brilliant stuff Mr. Thompson. There are reasons why a nation of billion and more is crazy about this sport and Sachin. Sachin has given more pleasure to this country then all the collective polity since independence.

  • TheGecko on April 9, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    "They still believe in motherhood, patriotism, and true love; Hollywood and the West have moved on." Those are the 3 qualities that cavemen didn't have. And you say that you've "moved on"...

  • on April 9, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    I dont know how people will react to my comment. time has come to honour this man in to his third decade and still not a black mark, still supreme over his other counterparts. He should be given the bharat ratna and should be knighted . That would be great to hear " Sir Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar

  • on April 9, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    The entire Indian cricket experience in a single article. Must rank as an all-time best. Bravo! Mr. Thompson, you did your profession proud.

  • on April 9, 2011, 1:15 GMT

    Four words for the God of Cricket...."I LOVE YOU SACHIN"!!!!!!

  • on April 9, 2011, 0:09 GMT

    Wonderfully written article. It shows how cricket as a game played between international teams is far ahead of some games in USA played between two cities. Same for IPL. Long live Sachin and long live Cricket..:-)

  • on April 8, 2011, 23:26 GMT

    In a single article Mr. Thompson has encapsulated the entire cricketing experience in India. Bravo!

  • on April 8, 2011, 23:06 GMT

    A fantastic article. Can't praise it highly enough.

  • on April 8, 2011, 17:50 GMT

    Wonderfully written. "Cricket was designed to be played, not watched"...

  • on April 8, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    This is probably the best article ever written on cricinfo!

  • jasmin99 on April 8, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    what a brilliant article .!!.....it was a real views of tasting the cricketism in India one who didn't know anything about cricket

  • on April 8, 2011, 15:13 GMT

    this article was published here in US on (March 27) ESPN sports website. This article made a big headline on this most popular sports website in here US. I couldn't be more proud being an Indian when my American co-worker told me about this article and asked me about the rules of cricket. Now they talk abt cricket all the time ..:-)

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=110329/Cricket

  • on April 8, 2011, 14:49 GMT

    Tendulkar is best!!!!!!!!!!

  • on April 8, 2011, 13:43 GMT

    Dear Mr. Thompson, So did you find What India is? I certainly can tell you about Sachin .... He is God :)

  • on April 8, 2011, 13:32 GMT

    Wonderfully written. "Cricket was designed to be played, not watched"... ha ha that is good

  • kumarr4 on April 8, 2011, 13:31 GMT

    Kudos to you Mr. Thompson. A great great article which really captured and reflect my true feelings about Sachin and Sachin's India. Many failed before you but here is the irony, a first time cricket watcher did it perfectly. Speaks of your great skills as a writer.

    I felt envious of you playing the "gully" cricket with the kids. Reminds of my young days when I used to do the same. I also was reminded of Sachin's debut and what it all meant at the time.

    Kudos to ESPN and Cricinfo to make it possible too. Hope he writes more about Cricket.

  • on April 8, 2011, 11:54 GMT

    Brilliant article Mr Thompson. Reminded me of Ed Smith's wonderful book 'Playing Hard Ball' about the English cricketer's journey into the mystical world of baseball...

    I will look out for more of your work!

  • Anurag.Sharma on April 8, 2011, 11:39 GMT

    "Once, when an American company executive contacted his agent and wanted to understand what place Sachin held in Indian culture, the agent didn't quote the number of Test wins, or international centuries. He said, simply, that Sachin endorsed Audemars Piguet watches, and that the company made a model just for him. The executive was sold" ... truly awesome piece. I would request Mr. Wright to travel to England and Australia when Indian team visit there late this year. He should then observe what people other than Indians thinks about Sachin.

  • on April 8, 2011, 11:29 GMT

    the most striking words of the whole article are those that say "the republic of sachin" .. no matter how diverse the country may become with 28 languages, people of all religions, classes, social and political backgrounds, the one force that unites them like no other is Sachin who is as good as god for most and therefore very fittingly his name's literal meaning is "pure" .. and that's what he is. there is nothing that can shake the man's focus or adulterate his intentions of what he wants to do in life.. its only and only cricket till he can! as and when he retires he will definitely take a whole era of cricket with him! there has never been and will never be someone remotely comparable to him. Undoubtedly the greatest cricketer ever and probably the greatest sportsman of all time.

  • on April 8, 2011, 11:24 GMT

    JUST BRILLIANTLY WRITTEN.....THNX MR. THOMPSON.... .....BUST I REQUEST YOU TO COMPLETE IT AND YAKE US THROUGH TO THE FINALS TILL CELEBRATION THRU YOUR WORDS.....IT'S INCOMPLETE WIDOUT THOSE MOMENTS OF CELEBRATIONS.....WHEN SACHIN WAS GIVEN A RIDE ON EVERY INDIANS SHOULDER....REPRESENTED BY OUR OTHER MEMBER OF TEAM INDIA..... ......PLSSS COMLETE UR CHAPTERS......

  • medhasarkar on April 8, 2011, 11:18 GMT

    So many articles have been written here about Sachin. I have wanted to register myself and post a comment - sometimes in grief, sometimes in anger and sometimes out of sheer joy. But this time it was difficult to resist myself. As many of us have pointed out here, CRICKET and SACHIN are synonymous in this country. Few non Indians will be able to understand this strange equation, but its so so true. For 22 yrs this man has brought joy into our lives, he represents courage, grit and determination. His overwhelming love for the game is an example of how to love your art and how to pursue it. When he chooses to retire (which i hope is not too soon), he will take with him so much more than just an era. He will take with him a part of us, a small corner, where he is totally worshipped. Sachin is the best that there EVER could be. And you are privileged to have met him. Before i die, i do wish to see him f2f once, so i could just pinch him and see if he is for real, or is he really GOD!

  • on April 8, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    thnx Mr. Thompson.......it is just brilliantly written ......... just loved reading it .....please take us through to the final of world cup.........it's incomplete sir....it's just incomplete without mentioning about the shoulder ride other players gave sachin after winning the cup....nd emotions Sachin showed....after win.... ....will love to hear from you about all this....plss complete ur chapers....

  • Gordon_Schumways on April 8, 2011, 10:18 GMT

    Simply, excellent article. Thanks Mr. Thompson for this nice work. I should send it to Spanish sport writers so they can learn how to develop journalism skills instead of wasting their time narrating stupid things about soccer world. Once more, congratulations.

  • on April 8, 2011, 9:47 GMT

    The true measure of cricket madness in India? Google up 'Wright Thompson' and this article is the second result :)

  • Pea_81 on April 8, 2011, 9:39 GMT

    Thank you Wright. What an exceptional story. I'm not really sure if there's a way I can explain how fantastic it was. Just promise that you'll take those feelings home with you and introduce more people to the special (virtuous, artful, skillful, magic etc) game of cricket. THANK YOU!!!

  • on April 8, 2011, 8:50 GMT

    "Irony requires a certain amount of self-confidence," Lydia says. "You have to have built enough of an identity to turn around and reject it, or to laugh at it. I think that's something that takes time."

    True that. Irony is like adolescence - seeking acceptance through rejection or humour. The post-ironic phase, where true confidence comes, is hopefully quieter, more tolerant and easier to get along with.

  • on April 8, 2011, 8:29 GMT

    Awesome write up buddy. Took me my breath. Each and every bit is great. But let me correct u. Bollywood, compared to cricket is nothing. May be for an outsider, bollywood glitters a lot. But cricket is the river that keeps every one alive here :)

    Appreciate your efforts, visit us more :)

  • PINAKITHEGREAT on April 8, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    Amazing read.. Very nicely written..

  • on April 8, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    Great article. A bit too long, but all the way too engrossing. I did not want to miss out even one word, but then I'm an impatient person like SEHWAG and not a patient one like SACHIN, ( Rahul is extremely patient, but I did not mention him purposely as I respect him even more than Sachin and Sehwag) and thus left out a lot of the article for later reading. (I have saved the article to my documents).

  • on April 8, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    Very well written! Sachin is what fedex is to tennis, schumi to F1, Rossi to GP, Ali to boxing, Phelps to Swimming, Pele/Maradonna to football; the difference is the sum of the global fan following for the others is less than or equal to the fan following for not of SRT but other legends of Indian cricket! As you rightly pointed out those who follow the sport is lesser than those who follow the team (10 is to 90)

  • soumyas on April 8, 2011, 6:20 GMT

    i will take printouts of this article to preserve a hard copy, never know i might miss the link on web...gr8 article...

  • TheOnlyEmperor on April 8, 2011, 6:20 GMT

    "Despite his greatness, somewhere deep inside, Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar, who retired two years before Sachin debuted, seemed terribly insecure. After he became famous, he turned down a membership to London's exclusive Marylebone Cricket Club - the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of cricket - because, once, a guard there didn't recognise him. The slights burned until they became a part of him, his pilot light, defining both him and the nation he represented." -------

    It appears that whoever briefed the author about Gavaskar couldn't keep his petty minded and defamatory ( the slights burned until they became a part of him) bias out of it. Gavaskar was hardly insecure. I have been proud of his behaviour in that era and the way he called a spade a spade without being a sycophant.

  • del_ on April 8, 2011, 5:40 GMT

    Great read and a good insight into the psych of the Indian cricket fan and society.

  • sravan9999 on April 8, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    with this spirit hope india finds some space in other sports at international arena

  • on April 8, 2011, 5:02 GMT

    This is one of the best I have read here...

  • mikey1978 on April 8, 2011, 5:01 GMT

    Nice article and good narration..... I think you should visit India during the IPL season. I am sure you can find more topics to write about!!!!!

  • on April 8, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    Really nice narrative...has objectivity as well as perspective...

  • NaveenBL on April 8, 2011, 3:18 GMT

    My god! This was really emotional. Thank you Mr. Wright Thompson. You've summed it up quite brilliantly. I dont think any Indian writer could have written about the game without any bias towards or against something. Really amazing piece of writing. Thanks again.

  • pagar on April 8, 2011, 3:12 GMT

    Absolutely brilliant piece of writing ! It was amazing for Wright to gather so much insight into Sachin, cricket and India in a matter of just a few days. I started watching cricket in 1986 and have lived through that transition from insecurity to confidence to aggression. Apart from his innumerable exploits on the cricket grounds around the world, Sachin epitomizes the values that Indians hold dear - humility, integrity and generosity. Though his critics may have got a few things right, they have truly failed to understand the journey that Sachin's fans have taken with him and that for us, he, long ago, transcended the game of cricket and became a part of our lives. May he play for ever and live for ever. Thank you, Mr. Thompson, for visiting India and sharing your experiences with all of us.

  • on April 8, 2011, 3:12 GMT

    One of the good article..very narrative one..love it..

  • on April 8, 2011, 2:05 GMT

    Sir Don Bradman: I saw him playing on television and was struck by his technique, so I asked my wife to come look at him. Now I never saw myself play, but I feel that this player is playing much the same as I used to play, and she looked at him on Television and said yes, there is a similarity between the two...hi compactness, technique, stroke production... it all seemed to gel! ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Shane Warne: "I'll be going to bed having nightmares of Sachin just running down the wicket and belting me back over the head for six. He was unstoppable. I don't think anyone, is in the same class as Sachin Tendulkar. He is just an amazing player." ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ricky compared to Sachin? Hahah.. Hope Aussie fan realizes Humbleness & Persistence Prevails. Lara Gone & Ponting wud be Gone too. But SACHIN & Humbleness REMAINS !!

  • zxaar on April 8, 2011, 1:42 GMT

    @India_On "I cannot actually get past this Indian psychology and this is what actually makes me sad about India." ---------------- whats wrong in celebrating something that is worth celebrating. You off course mean to imply that india lost the match because Tendulkar scored a century. It is not Tendulkar to be blamed if others do not perform. From 265 for 1 to 295 all out is not tendulkar's fault , they did not collapse because he scored a century. By the way, you can feel sad about anything, it does not mean that you are right and almost 1 billion of people are wrong.

  • on April 8, 2011, 1:29 GMT

    Funny and interesting take on the religion called Cricket and its Gods!!! by a complete outsider.

  • on April 7, 2011, 23:41 GMT

    Aweome American take on Cricket..Well written..may be one of cricinfo editors should write on baseball or rugby..should be equally good read!

  • varma2000 on April 7, 2011, 23:08 GMT

    Excellent article..... Mr. Thompson I'm wondering did you experience the hype before India Vs Pakistan match. I spent sleepless night before that match I didn't even watch whole match as I was working and I'm sure many Indians and Pakistanis also had a sleepless night before the match. Thats the power of cricket in the subcontinent!

  • on April 7, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    Lovely narration. More articles from you would be wonderful for Cricinfo fans like us.

  • on April 7, 2011, 22:32 GMT

    Fantastic!!!! One of the best articles I have read on this website and believe you me that I have read quite a few.. :P It's great to know an outsider's view on the game!

  • on April 7, 2011, 22:25 GMT

    This is writing at it's best. This article takes you through a journey and make you feel as if you are with the writer. It's also impressive that Wright Thompson could capture the essence of Indian cricket and what Sachin means to us without prior knowledge about the game or the country. Respect!!

  • pkarjun on April 7, 2011, 22:12 GMT

    Brilliant article.. Very well versed.. Reminded me of the discussion I hold with my American colleagues trying to explain cricket to them..

    Suggest you to have a look at this video.. where Harsha Bhogle speaks about Cricket as a sport and Sachin..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbIXYEW9CSQ

  • bigdhonifan on April 7, 2011, 21:51 GMT

    There was Inzamam, there was Bradman, there was Lara, there is ponting, there was Jack Hobbs,ther was Aravinda, there was Imran Khan, there was Botham, there was Chappel's , there was Viv Richard's,.. But no one is greater than SACHIN TENDULKAR. BEST EVER BATSMAN< BEST EVER CRICKETER< BEST EVER SPORTS MAN....

  • on April 7, 2011, 21:25 GMT

    grt effort by wright to understand the game and the emotions attached to it, i guess if u have passion to the level of franticness for any sport, its pretty easy to experience the love for cricket and its idols by Indians anywhere in the wold!! kudos for article! though my favorite paragraph is the elephant one..lol..

  • Milind_Jadhav on April 7, 2011, 21:14 GMT

    Kinda lengthy read but delivers a brilliant perspective! Very well captured the essence of a man called SRT and the game of Cricket and what both mean to this nation of believers. One of the nicest ones to come out in the recent times without the usual rancor of an influenced mind. It is indeed a pity that some boorish characters still manage to find fault with the great man. To me the game will be poorer when SRT retires and I for one will take a lot of convincing to sit in front of the TV and watch a full game!

  • JoseBautista on April 7, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    very nice article!!!!!!!!

  • ph_younus on April 7, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    I dont know how in the very first day u got a huge interest in cricket but its true whatever u expressed is awesome and absolutely right.even a cricket fan may be cant express like thz.I m sure u will enjoy cricket. I love cricket and i like to enjoy everything of it.

  • iceman31 on April 7, 2011, 20:48 GMT

    Never thought I'll reach the end of the article. But when I got there I wanted some more. You are a terrific writer sir and I would love to read more from you. It's amazing how deeper you explored the rabbit hole in a span of just 10 days.

  • on April 7, 2011, 20:47 GMT

    after reading this article , i felt like i am re-reading William Dalrymple's famous book ' The city of Joy ' (a book published in 84 , abt kolkota , calcutta, which was made as an english movie later) .that book was also a take of an american author who lived in d slums ofcalcutta for months just to understand slums of india and indian culture. this article is speaks the same tone.

    for americans cricket will be a hard nut to crack and would you belive that americans are originally from UK.

    article's title says it all aou

  • PradeepR on April 7, 2011, 20:36 GMT

    You met Sachin and have spoken to him? That's fantastic. You're blessed. I hope to meet him one day. Nice interesting article btw. Congratulations.

  • Angad11 on April 7, 2011, 20:20 GMT

    I kinda got emotional when the cab driver says his sons name is Sachin.. Its just unbelievable how many people he can reach and in how many ways. He should be so blessed or should i say we Indians are blessed.... I dont know..

  • johngalt2011 on April 7, 2011, 20:19 GMT

    a long, but a wonderful read. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  • sammy1982 on April 7, 2011, 20:15 GMT

    Very good article and very well written. The way he tried to read sachin country of cricket is just appreciative. And as mentioned by someone above nice to see india from American perspective.

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:55 GMT

    great article! I can share this with my American friends so that they can understand why cricket is religion and Tendulkar is God :-) They always wonder why people are so crazy about cricket in India

  • Cricketcr3zy on April 7, 2011, 19:48 GMT

    I read this article couple of days ago on ESPN's website...... it was written so wonderfully and the observation made by MR. thompson was so amazing, i was at lost of words to describe it......

  • India_On on April 7, 2011, 19:47 GMT

    Nice Article. You must have also realized that Idol worshipping (not meaning in a Pagan way sense), instead when a person whether it maybe a sportsman or an actor like Amitabh Bachan is given a God-like stature. No matter how accomplished and developed India will be in the future but this mentality will never go away from India.

    Many times when Sachin has scored a century, India has lost that match. But people still celebrate Sachin's century and forget in their celebration that Indian team has lost. They'll celebrate his individual accomplishment. I cannot actually get past this Indian psychology and this is what actually makes me sad about India.

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:37 GMT

    Seriously Great article..!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:30 GMT

    What a classic article.. Love the narrative!

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    Simply sensational! great narration ! AWESOME article...

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    This is awesome..truely amazing...nice to know an American perspective about the game of cricket and the God of cricket ! Hope you ll be in Australia in 2015 to capture Sachin's batting in the next World Cup !

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:26 GMT

    To know sachin u should know India,..to know about India u should know India first...great lines,..lengthy but very good 1..

  • on April 7, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    Very well written. It took me more than an hour to read this article. Its so amazing to know that a man, knowing nothing about the sport, travels half way round the globe just to witness the THE GOD OF CRICKET in India and his magic on the Indians. This feeling itself increases my madness for the sport and its beloved son.

    Thank you for coming up with this very beautiful article.

    Long live SACHIN and HIS CRICKET.

  • Rushikey on April 7, 2011, 19:03 GMT

    Your article is like Test Cricket.. I was looking for T20 for my office lunch break.. Still it has its class!

  • shaizaaaa on April 7, 2011, 18:59 GMT

    Great Article - loved it - seemed like a eulogy though both to Sachin and Cricket as it is right now - However, i agree with almost everything here. Sachin is God and i am extremely happy for him. Its amazing to have an American Reporter capture the significance of the moment and the man itself. Wish you had stayed for the India v/s Pakistan and the finals - would have loved to read abt ur your experiences during and after those games.

  • ayush3051 on April 7, 2011, 18:58 GMT

    Just amazing.............

  • Anil_G on April 7, 2011, 18:55 GMT

    Awesome.. Brilliant article. the way you wrote the article about India and Sachin is superb. i am saving this article in my collection...

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    Nice article. I loved the observations Wright made regarding the game, the treatment of it in subcontinent. Hope you didn't take observations as well from Lydia.

    Hope you would have stayed till the end of the world cup. You just missed the best part of it. You would have seen the madness transcend its territory.

    However hope you agree with me when I say that first, a game is learnt by playing, not by reading a dummies guide. LoL and second cricket is same as baseball except with more skill involved.

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:48 GMT

    this is what we INDIANS are all about ........ finally u got it ....... lucky u ! nice piece of ur experience ......... SUCH is our SACHIN ! - proud Indiain !!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:39 GMT

    The best article on cricket, EVER. Thank you so much. I am a fan! Will you be writing a book on India? Cricket?

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    The title sums it all............"In Tendulkar country"

  • Champ2000 on April 7, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    This is awsome. it almost choked me at times.

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:34 GMT

    Amazing ..simply amazing… A brilliant article Mr. Thompson

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    One of the best article I have ever read on cricinfo. loved it.

  • sgbhatcar on April 7, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Nice article. Good to see an American perspective of India and Sachin Tendulkar and other cricketers. One comment on the Indian crowds not filling the stadiums when India is not one of the teams -- Most of the stadiums across the world are generally filled with the home crowds, be it a football/soccer, baseball or basketball game. The football(soccer) world cup is similar too. A stream of loyal supporters follow their teams everywhere. I don't believe that there is such a following for any foreign cricket team that plays in India. Hence, the lack of crowds at games that don't involve India. In general, only cricket games in India are packed to capacity. I doubt if any other country in the world can match India's crowds. The only other countries that might come close are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:23 GMT

    One of the best article on Cricket in India & Sachin... Awesome!!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 18:18 GMT

    Nice article......Good attempt to see the passion this country possesses for the sport.....:)

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:59 GMT

    A really nice read, not the typical Yankie blow-off we're accustomed to!

  • Padmanan on April 7, 2011, 17:55 GMT

    Good to read article like this. Well done.

    I don't know… after reading this article, I have recollected Nirad C Chaudhuri's Indian Crowd.

    Yes. Cricket is everything in India. If there is any Indian cricket match live on TV… no need for food and sleep.

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    too looooooooooooooooooooooooong...suggest u to put in parts

  • matbhuvi on April 7, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    I don't remember when was the last time i read a sweet article like this in crcinfo. This article gives a breathe of fresh air. Enjoyed it. Thank you.

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    Hats off to Wright Thompson for this article. I am in Atlanta, GA as of now and can understand your reference to SEC. Your article took me back 20 years or so when I was a teenager in Delhi, playing cricket whereever we could find a place far away from windows. I did break my fair share of windows, running away with my friends., leaving bats and any other paraphernalia behind, before the lady of the house with the broken windows came acreaming out. Appreciate that at least there is one American who understands what cricket means to India and what Sachin means to cricket!

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:41 GMT

    Its only after I finished reading the article I realized I've spent the last hour reading this. But never throughout the article I felt bored. It was amazingly written. Like a short novel. You've got be appreciated for such an article. SACHIN is more than a human being or a cricketer for me. There are many things one can learn from him. I say its been a privilege for 2 generations of people to watch him play.....A feeling which cannot be described. YOU"VE GOT TO EXPERIENCE SACHIN PLAY.

  • staxofwisdom on April 7, 2011, 17:40 GMT

    Note to akshay4india: when he wrote that Sachin "uppercut" Swann he was making a boxing reference, basically saying that it was a knockout blow.

    Great article. I am also from the US and went through my own process of becoming a cricket fan and trying to understand the sport, although i never had the privilege of traveling to India or any cricketing nation. Tendulkar is great, i can see why they love him so much.

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    Wonderful Mr. Thompson.... You sure are one reporter...... i had to read twice before i felt i could comment...

  • SnowSnake on April 7, 2011, 17:36 GMT

    I follow college football and I did not know that Auburn and Alabama had a rivalry. To me the biggest rivalry is Michigan and Penn State in Big 10. I also heard Florida and Florida State, but never Auburn and Alabama. Alabama will beat Auburn any day, so where is the rivalry?

  • on April 7, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    Amazing article. Amazing. Hope you had a good stay. :)

  • kool_Indian on April 7, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    This was the Main Article on the ESPN.com page - loved it immensely... and the discussion regarding this article between American, Indians and NRIs was interesting too - Thanks Wright Thompson...!!!

  • Impetuous on April 7, 2011, 16:38 GMT

    I have tried, time and again, to explain the 'complexities' of cricket to my friends who only know baseball. They do not know the legend that is Sachin Tendulkar and I think they're slightly deprived. I only wish you had the opportunity to remain in India for the semi-final and final as your view on it would have been interesting to read. Although I haven't followed cricket in a while, my life came to a standstill during the India-Pakistan match, it was two countries taking their war onto the field. The game had transformed into something more but it was so tantalizing that you simply could not look away. The delicate sort of question - If only it wasn't true. I wish Indians supported all the matches since they were all well-played and we *ought* to support all the nations. This could be one of the reasons which caused the ICC to make their decision to axe the associate nations from the world cup. Tragic. This was a fantastic article that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Thank you!

  • on April 7, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    Very well articulated with brilliant narration. A bit lengthy - but one of the best I've read on Cricinfo. Kudos to you... Wright.

  • hanskishore on April 7, 2011, 16:05 GMT

    nice article...good work...

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:57 GMT

    CricInfo - more articles like this please! Bring back the art of long form reading to the internet!

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:55 GMT

    What a brilliant article. Written with such pace and verve. Loved it!

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:54 GMT

    WOW man, reading about INDIA, about SACHIN, your point of view, your writing, simply sensational! AWESOME article!

  • dhaval262 on April 7, 2011, 15:52 GMT

    superb Article!!!!drove me till the end of it...

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:51 GMT

    really God of Cricket.he's a nobel man...i like him very much..he's proud of india.

  • pinik5 on April 7, 2011, 15:46 GMT

    Fabulous article, great reading, by the time I was coming to the end of the article I wanted more. Mr. Thompson do look forward to more articles on cricket from you and specially about USA cricket. Akshay4india, what Mr. Thompson here refers to as a Sachin "uppercut" is a boxing term whick is almost a knockout blow to the opponent.

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:35 GMT

    It is quite big to read but very very good........writer write very nice

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:34 GMT

    What a brilliantly written piece!!! Sensational read without making any prejudices or political inclinations. Simply brilliant.

  • Fleetwood--Smith on April 7, 2011, 15:29 GMT

    One of the best sports articles I have read in a long time. Well done Yank!

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:20 GMT

    Fantastic article on Sachin. Brilliantly captures the values and principles that he stands for.

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    Beautifully done....Cricket from a new prespective!! HE should have covered the entire World cup!!! Hope there's a second part here....Bring him back Cricinfo!!

  • mrgupta on April 7, 2011, 15:10 GMT

    That was an amazing piece of Article! Thanks a lot for sharing your journey. I am in Canada and we got the permission to put up the projector for India-Pak match in our office. Throughout the match our local Canadian friends were coming in and out probably just to see our reactions. They didn't know much about Cricket, though they knew one thing, when we say Cricket, one of them said, we know we might be talking about an Indian guy named Tendulkar. And he loved the way we all smiled just at the mention of Sachin's name from him. What Sachin means to us Indians cannot be fathomed by anyone outsider. I belong to the generation that grew watching him play. As he started his career i started watching Cricket. I don't think i will be following Cricket as earnestly as i don know once this great man retires. I am so happy that he finally fulfilled one of his dreams, its as if i fulfilled my dream too :-)

  • ironmonkey on April 7, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    Excellent article. After 6 years living in the US, I think I understand both sides of the fence - the manic love for Tendulkar, and the side that wonders what all the fuss is about. Thanks for this piece - hope you had a good stay in India and a good introduction to cricket.

  • Jai_Prabhu on April 7, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    Any book talking about Sachin becomes divine. Wonderful to read, great work Sir

  • on April 7, 2011, 15:01 GMT

    Long but brilliant Epic.

  • Seether1 on April 7, 2011, 14:48 GMT

    One of the best articles I have read on Cricinfo. Very long but worth the time. Excellent Mr. Thompson

  • donda on April 7, 2011, 14:47 GMT

    Its time to write books on Sachin . This was too big. But again its not bigger than a book, i think cricinfo should write a book on sachin and sell it. It will be best seller.

  • on April 7, 2011, 14:24 GMT

    For writing this article, you have my heartfelt gratitude. Thanks.

  • on April 7, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    Nice read.. Enjoyed it thoroughly.. Is it an article or a Novel?? :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 13:42 GMT

    Awsome..simple awsome...one of the best article I ever read...Hope you had a good stay in India...

  • Anupam_Singapore on April 7, 2011, 13:37 GMT

    Congratulations!!! Most wonderful article about India and ICC World Cup. Until now I used to read most of the Cricinfo articles and never bothered to comment. I forced myself to register with Cricinfo to give you this feedback. You have got a huge antenna, that can receive Terra bites of data, but you have this amazing gift of filtering the noise and expressing astutely the valuable insights. Rahul probably forgot to mention, this new boisterous India is also very aggressive in asserting friendship when positive vibes are received. When you visit next time to India, you will have to cope with that as well :) Thank you so much for such a nice article!!! Cheers!!!

  • nastle on April 7, 2011, 13:29 GMT

    Wonderful article, I read every word. For someone who doesn't know about cricket, you've conveyed it brilliantly, and taught me something about cricket. Best article about the World Cup.

  • TATTUs on April 7, 2011, 13:21 GMT

    Absolute peach. Though I do not agree on some points. Some points make an impression like Indian sports is 'following' American sports. Its just different and will always be. The culture itself is vastly different. But apart from that this is one of the best articles I have ever come across. Rate this along with many Rohit Brijnath and Nirmal Shekhar ones.

  • EverybodylovesSachin on April 7, 2011, 13:06 GMT

    My cricket will die when Sachin retires.

  • Paresh.K on April 7, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    Sach is Life in the mystical country known as India

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:44 GMT

    awesome piece of writing!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:40 GMT

    so long just read the first and the last bit. Anything about sachin is great init...............

  • rravindra on April 7, 2011, 12:39 GMT

    I liked reading your article, its a engaging and exciting both. For someone who had never ever seen or heard of cricket before. I would say this effort was simply brilliant...thanks for giving us a outsider perspective of cricket, cricketers, India and Sachin...in such a short yet meaningful text.

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:36 GMT

    The toughest task is to explain Cricket , India and what they mean to each other. This article did exactly that, and that too vividly . Loved it !!

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:34 GMT

    Really nice article.....the writer has indeed captured the essence of what sachin means to cricket and to India....Sachin means more than cricket , he is a symbol , he is a nation's pride and truly a monument of our times... Long live Sachin !

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:33 GMT

    Brilliant Article by an American who does not know anything about Cricket

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:30 GMT

    Wow ... very good article... Now a days after 02-April-2011 Sachin is More than GOD 4 us..... We love Sachin....& Indian Cricket Team...

  • PNikhilReddy on April 7, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    when u read this article... u dont know the length of it... one of my best..

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:27 GMT

    nice artical , i hope now you like cricket and sachin , i hope you watch the final

  • crickiguy on April 7, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    Very good read... brilliant work..

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:14 GMT

    always great,your gift our country sachin

  • on April 7, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    Very nice and brilliant narration! Yes cricket is one of the factor which unites us, thus the sachin!!! good work!

  • Chetantg_87 on April 7, 2011, 12:06 GMT

    Well written Mr. Thompson. Good work. Hope you enjoyed your stay in India.

  • on April 7, 2011, 11:53 GMT

    A very good read. Very consistent and honest.

  • on April 7, 2011, 11:51 GMT

    Dear Mr. Right,

    I think you have missed the epitome of the experience. The Final of the world cup & the moment sachin got out to malinga, the nation , the world was at stand still & more over the moment when India took the world cup & sachin was on the shoulders of the team mates............................not really he was on the shoulders of the entire nation. A life time experience which you have missed.

  • fd99601 on April 7, 2011, 11:25 GMT

    The flow of the article was good. Felt like reading a mini novel :)

  • T_Vinod_Kumar on April 7, 2011, 11:17 GMT

    Absolutely the fines article on Cricket that I have ever read. Rob Steen HAS competition, finally!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 11:16 GMT

    A very nice article. Feel Good Article

  • NSSN on April 7, 2011, 11:11 GMT

    Very well written, Wright.... SACHIN TENDULKAR is god to every Indian....

  • CricEshwar on April 7, 2011, 11:08 GMT

    Very captivating read. Too lengthy an article for CricInfo, started it but couldn't stop it.

  • on April 7, 2011, 11:00 GMT

    An american who doesnt know abt cricket .. who COMES to india and he gets to know about sachin and he too become a Fan of INDIAN CRICKET GOD .. Vry very beautiful article.,,,,, but he couldnt see INDIA Vs PAK Match , thats d sad ending story

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:59 GMT

    Ha Ha... it was awesome... Keep it up, Sir!!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:50 GMT

    awesome sir.......yu showed us crazy cricket loving india....

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:49 GMT

    Graeme Swann - the best spin bowler in the world ?

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:44 GMT

    "England sends in Graeme Swann, the best spin bowler in the world." Hahahahahaha

  • alooser on April 7, 2011, 10:39 GMT

    Wow! Very well written Wright. I am sure not even an Indian would have been able to express his emotions about cricket as beautifully as you have. Got goosebumps just reading it..Definitely going on my facebook!

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:30 GMT

    After a long time, a proper article about the game and what the game means to a country's masses!!! I enjoyed every minute of the article to say the least. One common denominator that this country has got is pride and cricket. With sachin being its mascot, its no wonder that anyone new to this country will perceive Sachin and Cricket as something similar even interchangeable. But the truth is far from it. It is like a religion and a prophet. Sachin is the prophet and the game has become his and the country's religion. Sachin will one day leave this game but his legacy will stay forever!!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:27 GMT

    Itz been gr8 to know tat an American tryin to learn the abouts of cricket....Utterly he will succeed coz he is startin with Sachin.....Sachin will carry a lotta means to him in the rear future.....wish him all the very best..........

  • apyboutit on April 7, 2011, 10:10 GMT

    ... imagine, you are just a first timer!! ... now imagine, how much each one of us would want to say about this man, Sachin!! Nice read. Nice observations about India. BTW one of the reasons why you are able to predict where India is going is because it is no secret! The business men have decided to take it along the American Road! So, it would best be understood by an observant american like you. Hope you enjoyed your stay. Hope you watched the semi finals and the finals too.

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:09 GMT

    The best thing about this article is it's true to heart..... Very Interestingly written!

  • arya_underfoot on April 7, 2011, 10:03 GMT

    Beautifully written my friend!!

    "So, when Tendulkar retires, will he take an era of cricket with him?"

    He will take much more with him. Not just an era of cricket, but his gentleness, poise and dignity. All of this will go with Sachin when he retires. Cricket without Sachin will be a monumental paradigm shift for a whole generation of cricket fans, those of us who do not what cricket is without him. There is no way in my mind that I can distinguish cricket from Sachin and vice versa, the two are so intimately entangled...

  • on April 7, 2011, 10:00 GMT

    Its not only about Cricket, its not only about Sachin. Its about India... and about Indians... their emotions, their hopes, and their relentlessness. Its about the gradual change in the outlook of the Indians, still keeping their roots intact. In a way, its about our past, our present and our future. Its about a country which, despite being under-developed, is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and a frontier all powers want to explore. Its about the second most populated country in a world, and about how a land with 1.2 billion people finds its identity in one man.

  • sweetspot on April 7, 2011, 9:54 GMT

    Not bad for an American. And he writes in English, too! (Just kidding!). Great observations and excellent narration. I will be forwarding this to my American friends. Not Indian friends in the USA - they would already have read it! Can you imagine how life would have been if more people in the USA followed cricket? And how quickly the people of India and the USA would have embraced one another!? We would have gone nuts talking cricket. A lot of Indians and Americans would even have married each other!

  • J-Kalia on April 7, 2011, 9:50 GMT

    Very fascinating read ! Love your experiences with this cricket obsessed country, happy that you've enjoyed it and were able to learn the joys it brings to a nation !

  • ashuloyal on April 7, 2011, 9:48 GMT

    He was there,He is there & He will be there.....to live upto expectations.....SACHIN...

  • whomping_willow on April 7, 2011, 9:47 GMT

    Waiting for the next part of your journal . Especially your experience of India Pakistan match and that of the world cup final. It was great to read how even a foreigner with no knowledge of cricket could understand what Sachin meant for India.

  • on April 7, 2011, 9:43 GMT

    loved it.both as a sachinian and an indian.

  • on April 7, 2011, 9:28 GMT

    I don't think I've read a better piece on cricket in India. And it's by someone who doesn't get cricket. A brilliant read.

  • on April 7, 2011, 9:23 GMT

    brilliant article.. well written... hope you had a good stay in india... too bad u dint watch semifinal ind vs pak and finals ind vs sl... well written article except for this line... "England sends in Graeme Swann, the best spin bowler in the world".. he is by no means the best spinner in the world..

  • on April 7, 2011, 9:16 GMT

    really well written. One of the best articles I've ever read on Cricinfo. Narrative was flawless, and ideas well presented. You should write more articles for this site.

  • sonofchennai on April 7, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    1derful and mus read..bit lengthy though

  • rockz.andy on April 7, 2011, 9:14 GMT

    If you write an article even larger than the length of China wall when there is Sachin in it..it will pull hard at your heart-strings

  • csantosh.a on April 7, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    This an incredible articulation of "Sachin and Our India". Author seems to have got just a glimpse of Sachin. I request author to visit India again and write such wonderful words on God of Cricket.

  • on April 7, 2011, 9:06 GMT

    superb Article.... I can say author has realized every India cricket match is like super bowl in terms of excitement among fans.... & Sachin wud b the first sport person he has ever met who has been treated like a GOD in cricket world..

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:56 GMT

    Hats Off Wright Thompson... Great Job.. Coming down to India and understanding its religion (Cricket) and meeting the God himself... I envy you :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:47 GMT

    I agree with you to a certain extent regarding the America in the 50s comparison. I live in America and I've seen it too. Bollywood would probably be popular in baby boom America, whereas it would be seen as cheesy and tacky today. However, I wouldn't say there is such a thing is pre-ironic and post-ironic. It's just that if most of the population of your country is young and striving to succeed and lift themselves out of poverty, there really is very little room to be cynical about life. The richer, more elite population of India probably has a better sense of irony and cynicism. And ironically, the Bollywood elite most probably does not believe in the India they portray in their movies.

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:46 GMT

    Brilliant writing! Think he wanted to know cricket.. but ended up knowing Sachin instead.. !! that's what the man means to the sport.. !! :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:46 GMT

    Nice article........We love u SACHIN.........

  • MdRaja23 on April 7, 2011, 8:27 GMT

    Awesome article...though big, worth reading many times...wish you stayed till the WC final match & watched the celebrations across the country...

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:23 GMT

    An Awesome Read.. Sach is Life..

  • KarthikPadmanabhan on April 7, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    Nice, but just too, too long.

  • on April 7, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    Beautifully expressed. Thank you very much. Avadh Lal

  • mvchilukuri on April 7, 2011, 8:10 GMT

    Excellent article...but it should have ended with World Cup finals. Hope to see the second part of article, else it would be like bridge without end!

  • Jabberwoc on April 7, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    Good article except where you contradict yourself and oversimplify - "a pre-ironic country", "like America in the '50s", "an expert on developing nations" ??? Give me a break! India is like America in the 1950's, the 2010s and the 2060s (and in parts like the 1750s - remember those?). It is at the same time pre-ironic, deeply ironic (but for that you need to know its vernaculars of irony) and post-ironic in a way you cant imagine, because you may not have experienced it in your made-to-order, fitted-to-theory, toy country. Spend a little more time in India and you will see that the only simplification that encompasses India is "all of the above". Until then, stop trying to fix the "developing nation" in a formulated phrase

  • on April 7, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    I have never commented before. Reading this article was an intimate experience. I am a Sachin fan and at the same time I can understand the Auburn-Alabama rivalry.

  • abuu_cricinfo on April 7, 2011, 7:42 GMT

    beautifully written article, loved every line.

  • AussieFan on April 7, 2011, 7:40 GMT

    A very well written article. For all that Tendulkar has achieved, however, his record will show that he has had a very poor World Cup record, especially in pressure or elimination matches. Ricky Ponting, in contrast, has always delivered in crucial World Cup matches and can be credited with Australia's amazing WC achievements. World Cup Final 2003: Ponting scored 140*, SRT scored 4. In the 2011 WC in the QF against Australia: Ponting: 104, SRT: 53. In the SF against Pakistan SRT scored a very ugly 85 and was dropped four times and he also failed in the Final when the stage was set to score his 100th international > he scored 18. SRT is the second greatest batsmen ever, but his WC record will be always be disappointing. And yes he has scored plenty of runs at the WC against minnows and in early matches.

  • on April 7, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    thank you mr.wright for visiting our country and narrating its soul so beautifully. around 10-15 years ago, our cricket team, as u observed was insecure as were we, wondering how we can ever win with just 3or4 good players. a team game needs support from everyone/all-departments. we couldn't digest defeat. my friends used to blame sachin for losing, because we expected him to make a century every other game. slowly his presence gave confidence to the next generation cricketers, they also started dominating. if sachin fails as opener, we were doomed. so his place at 4 made lot of sense then. but recently after finding yuvraj, dhoni able to guide/stay thru the end of the game we hav no such prob. he along with sehwag can go all guns blazing. he didn't that FREEDOM before. i think i shud stop my personal ramblings here. as i was reading ur article, i cried. 20 years in slowmotion. thank you.

  • soumyas on April 7, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    great article....for a person who is born and brought up in india, lots of points you have mentioned are obvious, but after reading your article i realized there is a lot in our life which we took it as granted, you have really put this article in eye opening fashion, Best one was Sehwag's birth from Sachin, and Sachin's birth from Gavaskar.

  • on April 7, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Brilliantly written by.. Captivating till the very end.. You must watch the Indian team in a test match..

  • kranthi... on April 7, 2011, 7:22 GMT

    I think u missed the real fun... Actual world cup started from where you ended this post... I hope u followed it atleast in TVs or over internet..

  • banam on April 7, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Hats off Mr. Thompson !!!!!!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 7:07 GMT

    Awesome article,,,,,, Thanks

  • nzcricket174 on April 7, 2011, 7:04 GMT

    thanks for the read wrighty

  • MasterClass on April 7, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    Lesson from this wonderful article: Let Sachin ENJOY his cricket. He has EARNED it. Stop with the god nonsense. Can't anyone feel the poignancy in Sachin's last answer: "I'm waiting for that time to come." Almost made me cry.

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:44 GMT

    great read , like the details :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:40 GMT

    A must read for Sachin fans! :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:33 GMT

    One of the best articles i have read on cricinfo!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    Simply awesome.. Sachin the great.

  • R.B.G. on April 7, 2011, 6:26 GMT

    nice ........awesome...........SACHIN IS LIFE BREATHE EVERYTHING......

  • dhruvnz on April 7, 2011, 6:25 GMT

    wow what an article, even though it was long it captivated me throughout. best article i have ever read on cricinfo hands down, and from someone who didn't even know cricket!

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:24 GMT

    really sacin is a country for his acheivements

  • Run4 on April 7, 2011, 6:15 GMT

    Thought provoking and excellent article.Some passages brought tears in my eyes...

  • Khwahish22 on April 7, 2011, 6:11 GMT

    This is written in such a simple language. Truly Beautiful. After a long time an article which is un-putdownable!

  • Narayan.Shastri on April 7, 2011, 6:03 GMT

    Superb, interesting article, mate! I will email this to my American friends... :-)

  • on April 7, 2011, 6:03 GMT

    Wish the narration had covered the world cup final as well. Been a great read.

  • Vindaliew on April 7, 2011, 5:54 GMT

    That was very very long, but worth every minute! Thank you for helping us non-Indians get a taste of what it means to love Indian cricket, and to be part of it.

  • Andy500265 on April 7, 2011, 5:49 GMT

    Excellent work Wright, this has to be one of the best pieces ever to be published on Cricinfo.

  • Dhitik on April 7, 2011, 5:37 GMT

    even though this is big...still there is an underlying unity and a flow in narrative which binds the reader till the end.....well written....hope u had a great stay in the subcontinent....cheerzzzzzzz

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:36 GMT

    Very good article. SACHIN IS LIFE

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    awesome article superlike :)

  • Harvey on April 7, 2011, 5:31 GMT

    A wonderful and thought-provoking article.

  • akshay4india on April 7, 2011, 5:22 GMT

    A brilliant article, I have been trying to explain to my friends in New Zealand how important Sachin is but I just can't seem to say. I guess they need to experience it for themselves. Brilliantly written, although the only problem I had only one problem, when you wrote Sachin "uppercut" Swann, which is not what it is called.

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:21 GMT

    Cricket in India: Revisited Great to read it. This is a Short novel

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:15 GMT

    For all those who dont know who is Sachin Tendulkar, besides being a sportsman, and what he means to a nation. Read it to believe it!

  • aim0017 on April 7, 2011, 5:13 GMT

    Good work Wright! I hope you had seen India Vs Pakistan game in the world cup! Anyways, read the entire article and loved it! thanks!

  • novice_Win on April 7, 2011, 5:12 GMT

    Vry very beautiful article...Sachin is more than GOD to this country... I wish you (and we too) get more glimpses of SAAAACHIN in the forthcoming times... :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    Sensational Read. Well done Sir

  • mr82 on April 7, 2011, 5:11 GMT

    what an article. Well truelly Sachin carries not only INDIA's dearms, but he is the dream of every cricket fan in the globe. He is the true hero of Cricket. good luck...

  • on April 7, 2011, 5:00 GMT

    amazing..amazing...thanks thompson

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    Absolutely gorgeous - the best sports writing I've read in a long time. Nice work, Mr. Thompson.

  • shriramd on April 7, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    This article can also be read @ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=110329/Cricket

    Thats better presented

  • meet_ssr on April 7, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    OMG. What a narration by Mr Wright Thompson. It is awesome. For me, Sachin is more than God. Srini

  • Sreerang on April 7, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    I read this piece a week back when a cousin of mine forwarded the article from the ESPN site. Very well written piece as the writer takes us on his ride of discovery of cricket and the subcontinent. Would love another article from Thompson now that India (& Sachin ) have won the cup.

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:21 GMT

    WOW ... a really good one.

  • ganeshraam on April 7, 2011, 4:15 GMT

    An absolute rocker of an article! Loved every line of it... It just shows how much it means to be SACHIN TENDULKAR :)

  • prateek4m on April 7, 2011, 4:05 GMT

    Mr Thompson got the glimpse of Sachin and Sachin's India.

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    One of the best pieces I've read...amazing and unbiased....like it!

  • on April 7, 2011, 3:50 GMT

    Very lengthy.. dont have time to read all :)

  • Sach_is_Life on April 7, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    Read this one on Espn.com before Indo-Pak game .. It took me 1 hr to finish ..but man .. wat an article .. Great Job Sir ... got to appreciate ur luv 4 the game .. Hope u had great time in sub continent .. and yeah .. Sachin is GOD n 4 me ..sach is lyf !!!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Sach_is_Life on April 7, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    Read this one on Espn.com before Indo-Pak game .. It took me 1 hr to finish ..but man .. wat an article .. Great Job Sir ... got to appreciate ur luv 4 the game .. Hope u had great time in sub continent .. and yeah .. Sachin is GOD n 4 me ..sach is lyf !!!

  • on April 7, 2011, 3:50 GMT

    Very lengthy.. dont have time to read all :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:03 GMT

    One of the best pieces I've read...amazing and unbiased....like it!

  • prateek4m on April 7, 2011, 4:05 GMT

    Mr Thompson got the glimpse of Sachin and Sachin's India.

  • ganeshraam on April 7, 2011, 4:15 GMT

    An absolute rocker of an article! Loved every line of it... It just shows how much it means to be SACHIN TENDULKAR :)

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:21 GMT

    WOW ... a really good one.

  • Sreerang on April 7, 2011, 4:31 GMT

    I read this piece a week back when a cousin of mine forwarded the article from the ESPN site. Very well written piece as the writer takes us on his ride of discovery of cricket and the subcontinent. Would love another article from Thompson now that India (& Sachin ) have won the cup.

  • meet_ssr on April 7, 2011, 4:40 GMT

    OMG. What a narration by Mr Wright Thompson. It is awesome. For me, Sachin is more than God. Srini

  • shriramd on April 7, 2011, 4:44 GMT

    This article can also be read @ http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=110329/Cricket

    Thats better presented

  • on April 7, 2011, 4:49 GMT

    Absolutely gorgeous - the best sports writing I've read in a long time. Nice work, Mr. Thompson.